There is a kid who lives in the wilderness and is said to have a jar that holds a poisonous fart.
But before we continue…
The most useful part about the art of art is in fact, it’s uselessness.
Have I lost you already? Allow me just another moment or two of your precious time.
My point is that there’s a place—an important place, as a matter of fact—in our all to pragmatic world for the impractical and the non-essential, and the fact is that art occupies that place with more grace than almost everything else. Art occupies this place with such authority and with such inspirational, if not, quixotic results that we often find ourselves knee deep in the contradiction of having to concede that the non-essential is, and can be, quite essential indeed, if for no other reason that an environment reduced to societal mandated essentials is a subhuman landscape in which only artificial intelligence will one day thrive.
Walking a step further, perhaps, let’s proclaim that creating has no stronger enemy than those creatives who allow their art to become subservient to socio-political issues and/or ideals. In doing so, they not only violate art’s fundamental sovereignty, they surrender their freedom from the function that made it art (as opposed to craft or propaganda) to begin with. At the heart of any genuine creative response are feelings or sensations that have no rational application, material or psychological, yet somehow easily manage to enrich our lives more than we know.
The notion that art must be an instrument of discernment for social betterment is not always true.
Obviously art does not exist in a vacuum. Like a coral sea creature, it is embedded in a vast undulating reef of politics, religion, big budget entertainment and social movements of one kind or another. Yet, while we are caught up in the throes of the creative experience, we are lifted out of the mundane and granted a temporary visa to an out of the ordinary dimension, where our existential burden momentarily lapses and is projected upon a plane of pure perceptual pleasure. And what is the art of art after all, but a vehicle for the transportation of perceptually aesthetic values.
This isn’t to say that the art of art cannot convey other, added values, values with intellectual and/or emotional weight. However, if it really is art, then said values are meant to play a secondary role.
To be so sure, we may praise a particular creation for its cultural awareness, for the progressive statement applied to its core message, and the fearless stand it takes against oppression, but to honor, or to be revered as “art” when its aesthetic impact is not its dominant feature is to get caught in a sort of new philistine trap of shady semantics and false emphasis.
On the topic of semantics, let us first take three or more deep breaths and then define our terms…
Ask folks what the word “aesthetic” means and most will answer without hesitation, “beauty.” Sorry folks, but that ain’t always so. Beauty is most times the tour de force in aesthetics, for the creative and their audience alike—but beauty isn’t always an ingredient of necessity in an aesthetic environment, nor does it in any means whatsoever, define one. In aesthetics, beauty and ugliness are relative terms, and whether a work of art is one or the other is but a mere matter of perceptual taste.
Like ethics, logic, theology, metaphysics, epistemology, et cetera, aesthetics is a branch of philosophy, and in the art of art’s case, it’s the branch that deals in the powers of sensory and spiritual perception: more specifically, with how we attempt to understand and evaluate the external phenomena registered by our eyes and ears. If the creative composition that delights, captivates, or challenges our senses has been created for such very purpose, we become firsthand witness to the art of art.
Creating is a mysterious path about which little can be said that isn’t misleading. To attempt to pin down the purpose of art, to try and lock it in an airtight vault of definition is boorish, and rather totalitarian. Yet, unless we have somewhat of a consensus about what art is, unless we can evaluate it with certain aesthetic parameters, however broad and flexible, we cannot claim it as a subject.
In the latter part of the 20th century, it became of style to assert, “Hey man, everything is art.” Though that convenient notion is as evasive as it is inclusive, because if everything were art, then hey, man, nothing at all is art. If there is no separate category of human production that can be identified as “art,” then we can no longer discuss art, let alone isolate it in a coherent exhibition or hold it to standards of par de excellence; art will have become numb and indistinguishable from the manufactured materialistic mess under whose weight the foundation of the world (and its collective creative soul alike) is slowly cracking.
In closing, art, like love, is what makes the world forever fresh and new. However, this revitalization cannot be thought to be its sole purpose. Art revitalizes our soul precisely because it has no purpose. Except to engage our senses, which is imperative, as to pointing us in the ethereal direction of something fresh and new, or, even better, towards the emancipating path of aesthtically and authentically inspired uselessness.
And as for that poisonous fart in a jar, in a world gone to hell, who’s to say it won’t one day save the world…