Musings on art.


              Some small ideas to chew on...

I find useful the idea of pieces of art functioning not as things but more like people; this pre-empts many of the sillier questions and complaints. "What does it mean?" might be a useful question to ask of an object, but not of a person. You get to know people by hanging around with them and slowly absorbing who/how/what they are; you don't approach them with a check-list or a translation table. You sometimes outgrow people, or discover them to be much bigger (or smaller) than you thought, or only get the point of some important aspect of them after many years. Most of my oldest friends are pieces of music (this doesn't prevent me wanting to meet new ones).

It isn't the art's fault if people commodify it, any more than it is people's fault when they are commodified by the unscrupulous. A thing carries a small number of meanings, a person richly growing carries many. Art is hard because you must put into it the life which enables it to function like this. Bad art is clearly charnel stuff, and dissection pointless. What a well-turned liver! If you're too lazy to live your way in, if your sub-Cartesian angst makes you too desperate for a foundational fix, you'll get the shallowness you deserve.

If the art is a thing, with few meanings, then it is amenable to translation and can be held responsible for any misuse that results. If it is a being with rich evolving meanings, then everyone starts fair, and you assume your own responsibility for yourself in its presence, just as you assume responsibility for yourself in the presence of all those harmless or harmful people (mostly both at once) who flow through your life. If it is a thing, it can be possessed, and you are therefore right in envying over-dressed opera-house audiences for hoarding Mozart and Wagner along with their furs and shiny cars. If it is a being, however, then every encounter with it is a street encounter, an open situation for interplay, and no one is "in possession". Do you possess your friends or acquaintances?

Only the Grosser culture (definitively established in the 80s) has led us into this "possession", by which we are truly possessed. We are routinely incited to "consume" art, despite the pedestrian obviousness of the fact that the book, the picture, the symphony is still there after we've finished with it for the day   -   it merely goes back to where it goes. If we cannot distinguish between what stays and what disappears, what hope for our thought?