Friday, September 27, 2013

What is art? An off the cuff approximation

What is art and why does it matter?

There's a great tension amongst many “artists” - between making what they want and need to make, and earning money.  Inara Moloney, paraphrasing Aristotle often said “the good is what we do for its own sake” - and so, art.

We are living in difficult times.  The “values” of our civilization are seemingly so confused, so short sighted, that people from all walks of life feel the psychic and spiritual disconnect between that which the market rewards, and that which has lasting value.

As humans - whose lives are short - it's hard to create a culture that values planning for anything approximating the long term - it's hard enough not over eating, over indulging, grasping the easy, greedy, wins, no matter the costs.

And so art -

Jumping ahead here as the preamble is not the punch line.

To make good art - to build a culture - is to strive for a form of immortality.

That's only part of it.

To aspire to beauty - even when it's ephemeral - perhaps especially when it's ephemeral - is to attempt to reflect into the world some iteration of our cosmic dance.  To strive for grace - 

Transcendence - as I understand it - is the acceptance of this short time we have for a gift of infinite beauty that can be fully appreciated in an instant.  It is gratitude in the face of oblivion.

It is the painful awareness of our mortality that makes us rage to make each instant worthwhile.  The beauty of each moment can be hard to take if we don't have some way of accepting and indeed revelling in the fact it might be our last. 

And there are many paths that can take us there.

Our species is young - we are adolescents, childless, raging our way across this planet, and running fatally into each other, our own limits, and the bounded reality of the biosphere.  We don't know, and we are very worried, to see what the future holds.  Will our current problems be solved by some as yet undiscovered technologies?  Or are the tensions mounting in the system - overpopulation, resource scarcity, environmental degradation - going to lead us to apocalypse?  

These tensions fill us with fear, and fearful humans seek certainty, a sense of security, some inkling of being in control.  So we turn tribal at times - reducing complex challenges into “us” vs “them”...
But we also seek communion and community.  We love to be listened to, valued...our experiences are validated by a sympathetic ear.  

I believe the impulse to art is this attempt to find connection.  To overcome the fear of suffering and dying alone.  There are few burdens not lessened by being shared.  

No comments: