Why Art Matters
Art is ingrained in each and every one of us. Various forms of art can make us laugh or cry, or soothe us or enrage us.
Cavemen felt the need to express themselves on cave walls, to tell their stories. Put a crayon and a blank piece of paper into the hand of a child and watch the miracle occur. We see the world through the eyes of a child, again. In the hands of a skilled therapist, art can provide an illumination into the darkest corners of a troubled soul.
Art can transport us to a different place or it can put reality into sharp focus.
What is great art? That question has been around almost as long as there has been charcoal with which to draw.
Great art really is easily definable. Great art passes the test of time. Great art is timeless. In the end, great art is never ends up in the back of the closet or the attic, no matter how deeply it is buried. Great art, like the truth and reality surfaces, sooner or later
In the past, there was an attempt to suppress great art. The Nazis wanted to eliminate what they referred to as degenerate art. That included all forms of modern art and any works of art by Jewish artists. In fact, the pilgrims, uncomfortable with nudity of all kinds, wanted to suppress Greek art.
Conversely, some art is deemed important because it suits the need of agendized beliefs and values. Despite the art's irrelevance and insignificance, the art and artist are held up and celebrated, simply because the art supported an agenda. This was most evident, in recent times, with Soviet era art. Images of happy peasants, working in the fields, or fit men and women working in a glorious 'people's factory', defined a half century of art in Russia. Works depicting the desecration of religious figures or icons were hailed as 'breakthrough art' for a couple of decades in this country.
In the end of course, great art stands on it's own, without an agenda. Bad art falls to the wayside, with it's agenda.
There are actors who believe they and they alone, define the character of the roles they play. If that were true, we'd never know the name Shakespeare. It is his name that endures and not the selfish and petulant actors that mouthed the words he wrote. The actor/icons of today of will be forgotten. The efforts of the art they were privileged to be a small part of, will endure.
Dr Sanity wrote a post, A Campaign for De-Civilization, in which she describes political correctness gone wild in the art world. She decries the effort because, as she see it,
The problem --or rather, the reality is--that art is a critical part of life and through it one can can become aware of all the potential of what life can be. It is a way for humans to bring real, concrete meaning to abstract concept. As a selective recreation of reality, art uniquely captures and presents an idea or emotion in a way that can be grasped and understood by an observer. It provides, in other words, a "sense of life" --an instinctual fuel--that can inspire and motivate the perceiver--or, it can have the opposite effect.
Dr Sanity's view is hardly revolutionary. She regards art as independent, almost a life form in itself, interacting with each of us, whispering to each of us. The real audacity is that in a post Soviet era world, the appropriation of art has become an acceptable behavior. Some art is acceptable, some isn't. Dr Sanity goes on to say,
If you wonder why our nation seems so divided and why there is so much animosity and emotional hysteria directed against traditional values and ideas upon which this country was founded, you need look no further than the pervasise and unrelenting trickle down of postmodern theories and thinking in education, art, politics and all the social areas of life. Even science has not been immune from the nihilism and anti-reason and anti-reality agenda of the postmodernists.
A poet does not become a poet by writing words. A poet becomes a poet by having the words he writes become meaningful to others.Great poetry, like great art, does not need to be- and in truth, cannot be, agendized. Great art crosses political and ideological lines. Great art, like great music, is not owned by anyone one ideology or another. Notwithstanding the frenzied efforts of the politically correct (read: shallow) art critics, the great museums will endure and continue to mesmerize us and take our breath away. Symphony halls, seats filled with all kinds of people, from all kinds of places, with all kinds of ideas, will transport us into another time and another place, if only for a few hours. Generations into the future will have their hearts broken by Tchaikovsky's dying Swan.
The PC brownshirts that attempt to cast art in politically correct terms will end up like their predecessors, destined to despised and irrelevant, refuted and contemptible.
Dr Sanity makes another very important point: What Kimball perceives as "toxic legacy of Freudianism" is not really what he supposes.
What has been appropriated by the postmondernists is the pop-psychology translation of Freud, who was first and foremost a scientist in his approach to the mind. Freud believed that his ideas and theories which were based on observable behavior would eventually be validated by science. Simply because some of his followers behave as if Freud were the psychological Mohammed and that everything he had to say was the word of god, is no reason to reject all of the groundbreaking thinking that made Freud the historical figure he is.
Here, Dr Sanity makes an important point. In fact, every profession has it's own language. Lawyers, doctors, chemists and actuaries all use language that clearly reflect their respective expertise. Psychology, and for that matter, politics, have languages that are readily accessible. Simply put, anybody with the desire (or an agenda) can pick up a chain saw and call themselves a logger or arborist.
As is most often the case, untrained persons wielding chainsaws cause an enormous amount of damage, and sometimes, that damage can take years, or even generations, to repair. In the interim, we all suffer.
Just because you passed a college lab in physics, does not mean you are an expert on nuclear reactors.
Nevertheless, everyday, people that are clearly unqualified, expect to be taken seriously on matters that take years to understand. Bernard Lewis has spent a lifetime studying the Islamic world and yet he is routinely dismissed by the lecturers at Cockamamie Community College as 'out of touch' or 'irrelevant.' How this came to be is not hard to understand. Well meaning parents of spoiled kids that have overdosed on self esteem are put in front of the television, to watch an hour long PBS special on whales or the rain forest. One hour later, little Ashley actually believes she is now qualified to be taken seriously on the subject.
Appropriating psychology and the pioneers of psychological analysis to promote an agenda is an dangerous game, in every case, played by a coterie of idiot. As a result of that game, Americans are being dumbed down at the speed of light. There are consequences to foolish behavior- real consequences.
...the postmodernist heirs of Kant and Marx are not really engaged on a campaign for civilization--rather they are waging a campaign for de-civilization.No wonder 'Beam me up, Scotty' has become part of our vernacular.