Wrote this a while ago. Don’t know if I agree with it so much now (or if I ever did) but it’s something to think about, and I don’t like going this long without posting anything at all.
Art is life.
My favorite quote from Dead Poet’s Society is this:
“We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.”
We live for art. That’s basically what he’s saying. And this is what that means to me:
As humans, we each lead singular lives. We are all individuals with our own individual perspectives, views, feelings, thoughts, and these defining elements will never be reproduced in someone else in exactly the same way. At the same time, while we experience separately, much of what we experience is the same, and while we embrace our uniqueness and celebrate originality and independent thought, we embody a strange yet innate contradiction by constantly seeking companionship–by looking for ways to assure ourselves that in fact, we are not alone.
No one wants to be alone. Even if a person takes cold comfort in desiring solitude, it’s not truth. No one wants to feel like he is the only person on earth in history to ever experience what he is experiencing. Everyone wants to be unique, and everyone is–but everyone also wants to be understood and heard.
To me, this is the cause of all art.
Art is the attempt to share your perspective, you own individual assessment of an experience, with someone else who can identify with your experience. It’s letting others see an experience that they share, through your eyes. It’s communicating your thoughts and emotions and ideas. It’s introducing others to your way of seeing and feeling. It’s inspiring them to reevaluate their own way of doing this.
Art brings people together. It gives them a shared human experience. It makes them feel like they are not alone. It lays the groundwork for connection on a deeper level. I don’t think you can love art without loving people. Though sometimes art is making people feel uncomfortable, forcing them to confront something real they would rather avoid, it is still truth. Art is truth–personal truth in words, images, sounds, movement. To create real art, you must believe in what you’re creating. You have to be passionate about it. If it doesn’t mean anything to you, why should it mean anything to anyone else?
Art is courage. It’s risky. It means finding your own personal truth, embracing every vulnerability, channeling it, and opening it to the world. And the world is frequently unkind. I think that stops people from trying to get people to listen and see them. It stops me. I have this habit I’ve developed of assuming that 1) no one cares about what I have to say, 2) I don’t have anything to say worth listening to, and 3) I don’t really want to lay myself out so vulnerably, anyway. It’s terrible. They’re awful excuses, and they shouldn’t stop anyone from trying to make himself heard. We’re constantly bombarded by images, sounds, words, all the time. There’s a lot of garbage out there, and a lot of stuff that just doesn’t mean anything to us–but it may mean something to someone. By not sharing, we’re potentially depriving someone else of something meaningful.
The Pop artist Ronnie Cutrone said that Andy Warhol taught him not to waste time trying to define art because you can’t do it. I don’t think that’s true. I think you can define it–it’s when you try saying what is “good” and what is “bad,” that’s when it gets tricky. I think that to me, “good” art is something that successfully communicates the artist’s perspective, inspires interpretation, or both. There’s plenty of entertainment that is not art, and I can appreciate it–but it doesn’t mean anything to me. The only way I can criticize anyone’s creation is look at it and ask myself, “What does this mean to me? What could this possibly mean to someone else?” If either answer is anything of significance, then I can’t just dismiss it. Can I?