There seems to be a general consensus that the basic and predominant function of all art is to express. “The artist's job is to express his emotions and to symbolize his view of his surround-ings.” In a whirlpool of controversy around a word as ample as “art”, an onlooker can feel con-fused and this could seem like a comfortable window to escape through for a layman wanting a satisfactory description he can grab and digest. But a closer look at this definition (I express my feelings), will reveal many flaws. Perhaps we can analyze this further and provide the individual a better description and in so doing, give way to a much richer experience interacting with art and possibly even open some important philosophical doors which can reorient our view of all human activity in the process.
All activity is expressive by nature. The simple fact that a person exists and is visible carries with it an element of expression in that he can be perceived by others. In a friendly conversation where expression is very evidently taking place, the tone of the activity is very different from the one of a dogmatic lecturer. The person involved in a friendly conversation is stating his lines in a humble way, willing for the input of the other to be considered and for a dialogue to take place. He does not impose his content as absolute truth which is to be absorbed by the other.
A lecturer, on the other hand, is by very definition not conversing. He is expressing only. His job is to deliver his higher state of understanding onto less indoctrinated publics which must learn and assimilate. If we consider that a person’s task is only to express, and rule out a humble approach where flexible exchange can occur, we are confining him to the task of a lecturer who has gone through the entire spectrum of discovery and is prepared to indoctrinate. In this case, the spectators would have the task of accepting and understanding: this would seem to be the interaction with the professional’s work which was expected of them. Asking someone to experience work this way comes with a sense of arrogance. Certainly an artist can offer more than a monologue about his feelings.
The history of our species has been marked by a restless struggle to discover. Where are we? Who are we? Why are we here? Millenia of inquisitive thinkers have strived to unlock the secrets of biology, chemistry, physics, philosophy. We have even invented systems of law, economics and civilization in our attempt to carry us forward. We could collectively be perceived as a creature swimming against the current, insisting on our right to survive, discover and understand. This restlessness and desire lives within us. And it is in the manifestation of this human essence and the forwarding of the basic drive of our species that we find a more worthy explanation of the artistic process.
The macro-historical events of academic note form only a minute fraction of our collective history. Micro-history (the mundane occurrences of the everyday man) forms a much larger percentage of our legacy. This is our true story. The gardener tending his plants, the parent playing with his child, the cook peeling a potato, all carry on their shoulders and manifest in their interactions the flame of our true essence. A lone individual must realize he plays a role in a larger panorama of a human posture. In his moving through and interacting with life, he is carrying mankind forward and writing our history.
Art, then, would be much better approached as a philosophical process of thought. It is an intellectual endeavor. Certainly, it is not about regurgitating our surroundings through representations. It is a much more natural activity that we all partake in by merely experiencing life. The chemist who makes a scientific breakthrough and publishes a paper about it cannot be considered a “writer of papers”: he is considered a scientific researcher who published a paper. Even though his text is the only part of his work which can be shared, his process is the important part of the product. In this same light, the final piece which the artist can present to the public is the culmination of an intellectual process. All his technical perfection will serve him to add an exclamation point to his conceptual undertaking and make the final aspect of his work more receivable, but he must remember that his task is to add to the aggregate of human intellect. Being loyal to our nature is the correct element to celebrate in any proceeding.
We can find hints of human intervention in the wake of all our gestures, as trivial as they may seem. When our interplay on existence is spontaneous, it abounds in our substance and leaves a footprint as evidence that we were here. This opens our eyes to the fact that all people are carrying out artistic processes simply by living.
Art is a humble act of discovery and intellectual application where the manifestation of our human essence is immortalized in the gesture.
As the living, adding to the collective of what we stand for, all of us must not be spectators in our movement. We represent eons of human wonderment and it is our turn to nurture and advance our legacy. As a member of our species, as an artist, you have every right and duty to get involved in society, in science, in politics, in human thought. Let's get to work and recover our orientation to knowledge, to dialogue. Participate, participate, participate.
Texto: Ilan Dana ± Foto: Bob Tello