Thursday, February 9, 2012

Why art shouldn't be for art's sake - Part 1

Crawley, mixed media and beeswax on panel, 9 1/2" X 9 1/2"
"Art for art's sake" has always seemed to be a ridiculous claim. To claim that only "true" art are works that are divorced from any didactic, moral or utilitarian function seems like a scapegoat for artists. Not only that, I think it strips art of its intrinsic value. Viewing art as merely an image that has achieved some sort of self-referential autonomy seems like looking at food as only something nice to smell. Art should be nutritious for our minds. Art can do this.

Often as an art student I felt some need to defend art that claimed to be "purely visual", or some sort of isolated phenomena governed only by the laws of form and color. Maybe it's because what I make is usually abstract or perhaps it's because Clement Greenberg is a hot shot. Or maybe it's just because I'm not brave enough to speak up when I encounter things that seem to run against the grain of my gut-instinct.

Whatever the case may be, Alain de Bottom's TEDtalk on Atheism 2.0 had a segment on art (go to minute 10. If you've got 20 minutes the whole thing is super interesting, though I am an ardent believer in God). He argues that although secular society claims to value art, it has handicapped its primary (now historical) function-- to improve society--by propagating the false ideas that 1) Art is for art's sake and 2) Art shouldn't explain itself.

I couldn't agree more.

I'll write more about this soon. But taking attention spans into consideration (my daughter's, not yours) we'll break here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

If you want to listen to a good TED talk about atheism check out Julia Sweeney's "good without god". (she has some others that are about parenting that are great as well).

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