Literalism

I have the distinct pleasure of meeting with a group of like-minded, artistic people on a semi-regular basis. We call our group, YAK (you can make whatever acronym from that you’d like). We chitchat, have drinks, and gossip. Most importantly, however, we have directed, topical discussions. We decide upon a question to discuss prior to our meeting. Upon our next get-together we’re expected to have an answer or at least the ability to engage in an intelligent discussion on the chosen topic.

Of the proposed topics for our next meeting one of them in particular struck a chord with me. A group member asked,

“Has anybody ever sat back and thought how ridiculous the things we call art and create are? (Matthew Barney, Kara Walker, Tara Donovan– strange sculptures, performance Art…).”

It’s an understandable question. I went off on a little different direction than the one she had in mind, but her suggestion sparked something in me.

This is part of my answer to my fellow YAK member plus a bit of my added pondering:
Often times I’ll find myself standing in front of a canvas, or out taking photos and ask myself, “Just why the Hell do I do this?”. It doesn’t make sense when you look at it from a strictly literal point of view. Then again I think when you look at any of the Arts in the harsh light of Literalism things can look a little silly. Walking around on stage wearing makeup and sporting odd costumes reading words from a book the actors themselves didn’t write all the while being told how to move around and recite by some guy… OR standing in front of an easel using little sticks with hair on the ends to cover a piece of cloth with tinted oil. It does seem a bit pointless. I know that point of view does indeed exist. There are people in the world who have no concept of how to appreciate something that doesn’t break down into perfectly logical little bits. People who look at a brilliant painting and say, “but what does it do?” People who lack the soul to see beauty for what it is. In short… Accounting Majors.
Naturally I’m kidding, but many of you know people like this. Perhaps Art isn’t for everyone.

Everything looks silly when presented in strictly literal terms. Even accounting. Seriously, what’s the purpose of chasing around numbers that, in the end, don’t really make anyone happy? Just an example. I don’t want to get flooded with comments and emails about me disparaging the Accounting field (sorry, Suz). I’m just using that as a broad, stereotype-fraught example. The same could be said for parenting. What’s the point in creating more people that will do nothing but create more people who’s purpose is to create more people, ad infinitum? Species preservation? Why bother if that’s all it’s for.

See what I mean?

Seriously though… What’s the purpose in anything? All said and done I guess for me it’s in the invisible bits. The intangible. The sense of accomplishment you get when you finish a painting. The exhilaration of Opening Night. The satisfaction of watching your numbers work out perfectly on a spreadsheet. The sheer thrill of seeing your child change and grow into the person they’re going to become. Frankly, in my book, they’re all the same and they’re all One. It’s not about Happiness. It’s about a sense of purpose and the fulfillment of that purpose… whatever it is. When people do that it helps us all to grow a little bit more. Even if you don’t understand what it is they’re doing… Cristo, I’m looking at you here.

I’m thankful everyday that I was lucky enough to know what that purpose is for me. Some people go their whole lives and never even consider it. Have you considered what it is that you’re bringing to the table?

Until next time,

Cheers

R


~ by Robert L Reeves on September 18, 2009.

2 Responses to “Literalism”

  1. What about art that really does have no purpose,and the artist themselves cannot even explain why they did it? Good concept though, literalism has been breeding fanaticism for a while now. As even being literal is still open to interpretation anymore.

    Like

  2. The hardest part of being an artist? trying to explain yourself. Bottom line – I know I am only truly happy when I am creating. If I could explain WHY, perhaps a little bit of the magic would be gone.

    Like

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