Art as War (Part 6)

So simply put the point of art is to distract us from worry and envy long enough to reconsider our position. It invites us to a transformative point we are able to come back from and re-enter our lives with a slightly adjusted, yet still new, mindset.

The effect of art is subtle in that way, especially in American culture where we often ingest so many fragmented forms of entertainment we rarely digest their merits. We consume real works of art in the midst of so much crap it is hard to tell what’s what.

Still the seeds of life are planted, often deep within our subconscious. Generally art works in the sphere of imagination and meaning, simply bypassing our reason and rationality. Though we don’t know what we experienced, we had an experience.

Some more studied in classical art history might encourage the rational investigation of a piece of art following its experience. To truly appreciate the piece, we need to understand more about it. Certainly true, but perhaps outside the realm of experience.

In other words, appreciating later does not change what happened. Something happened in the present, in the moment of experience with the art. Something was inserted, something adjusted, something nuanced toward the top.

That just is. Its merits already happened. We can learn more about the adjustment and what happened by learning more, studying the art, etc. But the essential effect of the art has happened, at least in the realm of the soul, where art dwells.

What exactly happened not even the artist can know. But there is nevertheless the clear sense that the artist is a teacher. No classroom, no here’s the take away I want you to have, but there is absolutely a discussion he starts.

The Birdman movie won Oscar for best picture and, like any great movie, caused some controversy. The ending is obscure, and can be taken a few ways. This, of course, is why it is a great ending. Because it doesn’t really end.

The movie goes right out with us. The conversation continues. Like Christ in the parables, we are left going “wait, what just happened?” The best teachers are asking the right questions. And perhaps art really is about pointing out the problems.  Not giving solutions. Generally art that tries to offer solutions comes off painfully pedantic and preachy. But, artists who work individually to be part of solutions they believe in present a beautiful picture of activism.

They, like a good teacher, sponsor the debates. Then, after school, they go do and support some of the things they really think work. That can be a powerful illustration. Certainly some will get annoyed at the artist with a cause thing.

But it’s worth it. It’s worth it to care. It’s worth it even to, in some ways, associate with or around your art. There is a line here, but the greats have always towed that line. The closer they get the more exciting, the more tangible the debates they host.

The irony is that the purpose of a piece is almost lost on the artist himself more than anyone else. There is an inevitableness for an artist to create. If asked why he is creating or “should” he create, the artist is almost incapable of answering.

There is just the existential certainty that being is better than non-being, and being in this case is doing this thing. Whether the art project is a “worthy cause” is outside the grasp of the artist and critic alike. Some pieces are simply statements of being.

Really art in its purest sense is being itself. Like the song of creation being pours forth, creating capacity, birthing out of the latent potential for life (the darkness). Life ultimately is about living, and living is a state of being-ness that defies description.

Art is the power of being, a vigilant “yes” to being, a gift which is beyond us. We can not and did not purchase being, it is free. It’s desires and dreams innate within us. Being causes us to will according to its own volition, again a process beyond us.

What dreams are implanted in our being we do not and did not cause, we discovered. Hindering them from the process of becoming is faithless, a violation of who we are and who we are supposed to be. Let them become. This is art! This is war.

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