Art into Life
“Art has to be understood in a whole new way: as a raising of creative powers by the senses, that they become sharper, better, richer and much more potent; that the inner creative powers advance the present thinking structures through intuition, inspiration and imagination and don’t end with pure intellectual understanding. Furthermore the task of art is to develop emotion and feeling, and ultimately to develop willpower.”
— Joseph Beuys
We are interested in a larger context of art and creativity in society, in looking at these in a broader sense, as forces that change our state of attention. Artists are seekers, people who search and explore, who want to communicate meaning in this world, who continuously find new perspectives on seeing, thinking, or making things. One of the reasons we started Visual Strolls and one of the reasons why the portrait of LaForesta is changing every season is so that we never stop learning to look at the world through the eyes of artists. We are also interested in the artist in each of us, in a sense given to this word by Joseph Beuys, Friedrich Schiller and others - when they say that we are all artists. Not in a way how well we can draw, or have another incredible skill of making. That takes years of training. We are amateur artists. Amateur is derived from the Latin “to love”. Amateur artists are those who love, and who write love letters to life. In any form. Freestyle. Love means attention and expression. In this text we explore some of the principles of the arts that do well entering our lives in every aspect of it. They are part of larger forces of creativity that do not belong to any particular field, they are interdisciplinary and essential part of our humanity. Thanks to them we have the capacity to widen our lives any moment, to enter into the unstoppable flow of seeking and discovering, to resist popular opinions, vulgarity and boredom. They remind us to never stop exploring and never stop being amateurs.
MULTITUDES OF MEANING
Art acknowledges that we are multitudes. It is deeply aware of the diversity of human intelligence. There is no just one true way of looking at things or of experiencing something. Art values subjectivity. It captures our affective primordial contact with the world often in a non-discursive symbols of bodily understanding. Artistic experiences often talk to us through metaphoric meaning. For example, poetry takes real images, things we are familiar with, and at the same time evokes a wide range of allusions and associations. So it becomes a form of condensed knowledge that captures our concrete and lived experience — not in linear discursive ways but rather as a symbolic articulation of our embodied experience and understanding of the world that we wouldn’t be able to express in any logical form that would do the experience justice.
Art-making and its appreciation are integral features of almost every society. It's the dimension of human existence that offers an account of space, time, and the world as people live them, their deepest talents and passions. Ken Robinson writes that “the arts are about the qualities of human experiences”. Through all the variety of art forms people give shape to their feelings, perceptions and experiences. These make up an expression of human culture. So to understand each other throughout cultures and nations of the world, we do it best by reading what artists of words write, what artist of images express visually, what musicians play, what performers show, and so on. Art is a reflection. It’s a mirror that doesn’t stay the same in a way it affects us throughout our lives. One and the same painting can mean different things at different moments of one’s life. Just like one and the same place can feel safe or unwelcoming depending on one’s inner state. Art expresses the intangible qualities of our perception.
EXPANDING OUR WORLD
Art can widen and deepen our reality. It can alter and enrich our perception of things. This involves letting go of something fixated, something that has established itself as the truth in our understanding. Every moment we have the power to reimagine parts that appear to be fixed, to gain new insights, so that our world becomes bigger, our outer and inner landscapes expand. We end up in a new territory, we experience something which is not part of our vocabulary of the yet felt, of the things for which we still have no names. We experience a symbolic transformation of our world - through a personal perception and metaphoric interpretation. It can happen in many instances: a sight of a painting, or a smell that reminds you of some profound moment, a touch that reaches under your skin, dives deep and brings a new sense of joy, music that takes you to new places…
Beside changing the way we look at things or perceive reality, artistic practices can break down cultural barriers and tackle misconceptions. They can deconstruct reality by challenging our everyday functions of objects, trajectories we take, people we come in contact with. By questioning the established norms and the status quo, by braking routines, artistic practices can make something monotonous and outdated into something interesting and alive. They can humanise and revitalise our everyday objects, spaces, worldview and believes.
EXPRESSION AND PLAY
Art can be a liberating experience of finding inner freedom to create and play. Through art our ancient urge to express ourselves comes alive. We search for our own forms, our own expression, sometimes having to create a new language in order to find who we are, that is not a shablon, not a repetition, but can be each time a new beginning. Creativity is also originality, and originality comes from our origins, our experiences. In it we can’t copy anyone else, otherwise it won’t be fulfilling. With every breath we go in and search. Eventually we come out with a voice that is ours. And sometimes we just want to play, without any purpose other than to enjoy the shapes, colours, sounds, or whatever we chose as our medium.
It’s a rather widespread opinion that art is a means of aesthetic attraction that has served evolutionary history of humankind. These ongoing concerns with matters of our procreation as species also view art’s role as marking important step stones in human life (birth, marriage, rites of passage, and so on). Art is rarely recognised for its own intrinsic worth, but is rather seen as a ground that improves this or that skill and is therefore needed, as a kind of preparation. All of this might well be true, but it seems incomplete, too practical, too limited to being means to an end. The philosopher Ellen Dissanayake in her writing views art as 'marking of something as special.’ She describes how through art people intend to make certain aspects of their world more than ordinary, something it is worth devoting special attention to, something to care about and to treat with care. So in this way, we make art because we care.
SELF-REALISATION AND CHANGE
Stating that “everyone is an artist” Joseph Beuys was not saying that everyone is a painter, a sculptor, or a musician. He described a possibility for everyone to be a “social designer of the future”, one’s own future first and foremost, but also to partake in shaping the present and future of one’s surrounding. He proposed to enlarge the idea of art to include the whole creativity. He looked at creativity in terms of the inner powers which inhabit human beings and which can be developed further, so that self-realisation can happen. He called it ‘evolution of art’, which makes possible “to reach into the heart of society and starting from there to design the future anew, to reshape it, transform it". He compares any human to a sculptor who realises that his old sculpture needs improvement and chooses to reshape it. As an artist in this sense everyone is capable of working transformatively in their own life, as well as in the heart of the present culture.
Arts energise culture. They bring people together. Create sense of belonging. Build communities. Promote cooperation. A simple act of singing together, for example, serves all these aspects of communal doing, of storytelling, of collective connection. Art itself is a study of relationships. Through art we learn to perceive relationships, starting with ways we look at relationships of colours, of composition, of time contexts, of rhythms and silences, of performers or instruments. Arts can re-invent social connections and create dialogue between people who wouldn’t normally meet. The act of creating something together unites people. Like in relational aesthetics the main focus is human relations and the contexts in which they evolve. So events of all kinds are studies in relational aesthetics.
Interest in life is the most important thing. It keeps us going in times of storms. Creativity as everyday practice in all our living environments ensures that we will stay curious throughout our lives. Our imagination takes shape of the buildings we live in, thoughts we think, work we do, objects we see around. Surrounded by multi-sensual environment that invites imagination can be a wake up call from the repetitive monotonous activities, over-specialized work, four-cornered rooms, screens, and other phenomena, which after a long-term engagement shrink our world to a tiny lodge.
Potential for art is everywhere around us, in our homes and public buildings, in objects we use and streets we walk, thoughts we think and relationships we engage in, it is in any detail of the way we choose to live our lives. Creative life can expand onto inventing our own profession, and engage in its continuous process of development and evolving, staying flexible, not fixated into a label. It offers us to follow our true interests, to experiment without having to fulfil an expectation. Keeping thus the spirit alive we stay true to curiosity that moves us forward.
“All of us have to learn how to invent our lives, make them up, imagine them. We need to be taught these skills; we need guides to show us how. If we don’t, our lives get made up for us by other people.”
—Ursula K. Le Guin