Art as Religion
"The Artist is by definition a religious man, believing that we can create and transcend all our gods and that it is our responsibility to make the world more human." James Baldwin 'The Moral Responsibility of the Artist'
The world is full of people who didn't get what they wanted and who don't get what they want. The majority don't even know what they want.
Art and entertainment are here to do two things - either distract us from this gaping void in our godless souls OR perform a kind of witchcraft which will teach us how to first listen, then cast off, then LOVE with all our being.
I was asked this wonderful question,
"What reaction would you like from someone looking at your paintings?"
I am no longer fully convinced that they should like it or lump it. I no longer think that they should 'get what they are given' for I am what I am and I can give no more than I have.
Nothing of that fits in with what I want people to walk away with these days.
We are none of us 'fully realised'. The room for improvement is gargantuan.
Now artists do not change the world; artist's change people one at a time. Beginning with themselves.
This is where art beats religion hands down in that the founders and followers of religions never put themselves through the mill in order to verify their message. And if they did they have never yet shared the god's honest truth of their findings. The control of others has always been more important than such trivial stuff as truth in this case.
Artists, conversely, do not want to control people; they want to release people.
With that in mind it is an awful shame that so many people fear or despise the 'art world' for its cliques, exclusivity and apparent, impenetrable 'arty farty' philosophies.
Christopher Hitchens once pointed out that Religion was our first version of the truth. This was our first attempt at understanding the inexplicable.
Art is the continuing search which is free to use all tools available to us without having to resort to forcing someone to accept it or go to hell.
There seems to be a lot that is sacred in the art world. Things and people who have been put on a pedestal
This is off-putting and dissuades people of a touchy nature and innate distrust of bullshitty art-talk.
Nothing in art is that sacred that it can't be pulled down and trashed by whoever pleases.
Art is not a religion. Art rebels in its sincere lack of divisiveness.
On that note, Art, like science, asks to be disproved, to be questioned, battered and bettered.
The spiritual in art is in fact the obverse; to call artistic goals spiritual is a misnomer. Art's goal is far more practical; it is just that the parts of our psyche which art works on is like a newly discovered but as yet unmapped country.
This is why the modern artist's existential 'emptiness' is too often mistaken for 'lack of faith' or self absorption and so millions turn to religious charlatans who claim to have a personal hotline to the mystical source of all that we are missing that would make us well again and fill our desire for that unnamable something.
In religion we are born sick and ordered to be well again. In art we deal with the trouble of having been born and how we can remedy the mess we have woken to. Unfortunately 90% of this project involves shaking off the dirt one acquired when being dragged through the aforementioned mess.
The entire point of art should be to emphasise the, some would say scary, fact that there are no sacred cows and that the buck stops with YOU.
Art is entertainment. Art can be a documentary, a horror, a mystery, a comedy, a thriller or any number of things. If its meaning is obscure or even boring this in itself is part of the entertainment. The surreal and the avant garde are bloody good fun. None of these directions are chosen in order to 'take the piss' out of an unsuspecting public, but are on the contrary, chosen to examine the possibilities of ultimate all-inclusiveness.
We paint for ourselves (as a human race). The categorical imperative is our goal. The subjective feeling which everyone feels at the same time.
"Do not express judgement or criticism when you are ignorant of most of the factors involved."
Gurdjieff - Commandments.
"Nothing is more conducive to the development of observation than compulsory silence."
F.Scott Fitzgerald- Tender is the night
There is an old Zen saying "If you meet the Buddha on the road; cut off his head."
My message to 'ART' nay-sayers would be to go ahead and do this but don't feel so proud of yourself unless you know why you are cutting off the Buddha's head and exactly whose head it is you are cutting off. We are not a Medusa. Artists are not 'in it together'. There is no conspiracy against the artistically ill-educated.
Artists are in it alone-for-everyone.
Don't worry too much about cutting off the artist's head either; the artist will no doubt have a whole sack full of heads safely tucked away in their studio as a result of their own numerous encounters with Buddhas.
Art as Business.
"The universe is monstrously indifferent to the presence of man." Werner Herzog
The world's current most powerful, privileged, rich, white capitalist is made of such weak fiber one cannot help but believe that his obvious paranoia, misogyny, racism and fear-fueled hate might have been arrested had his child-like vulnerability, acting-out and need for parental acceptance been recognized and dealt with by those closest to him.
He is however as intoxicated by greed as the best of us. We are nowhere near close to being the caring, sharing people we sometimes believe we are.
We must each practice love, honesty, care and some kind of new radical kinship.
This is not a matter of religion or socialism it is a matter of poeticising our business sensibilities and arting the crap out of our considerations, predictions and hopes for our future.
Turning business into art.
Jonathan Meese calls for an end to politics through art but who will listen to his massively entertaining rants that are not already sold on the idea of the expressionistic, the avant garde or the abstract?
Liberal artists are often obscure, offensive and admittedly have some wishy washy definitions for both their practice and their goals. I sometimes fear that the ‚hippy dippy‘ which I love so much has screwed us! Are we to take a different tack, or do we wait patiently for everyone to catch on that there really are happier alternatives to this way of life that don't depend on blind faith.
Until now I have been all for waiting.
I would like to be the one to 'explain the joke' to those not laughing but I would certainly run the risk of ruining it for them; besides I am more than likely amused for entirely different reasons to the well-informed art-lover standing next to me in the gallery giggling like a loon.
To approach art with no fear and with one’s full naked persona present is something to aim for.
For the audience to see this and recognise the vulnerability of the artist showing all that they have to show in any one exhibition and to take the curator's reverential explanations with a pinch of salt whilst considering their very own opinion first and foremost is key to opening the mind to a whole other form of refreshing entertainment which is seen by too many as a private members club held in the churches of nonsense we call art galleries.
I am perhaps getting ahead of myself to suggest that art, after all, is merely entertainment.
Before this can be properly understood it is necessary to answer the questions one put to oneself when one first became an artist.
If our art does what it is supposed to do it should revive us, reawaken us and give us the inspiration to live our lives well.
To live and not to be tortured with questions many of us, with misguided brevity and a lopsided pride, believe we will never answer. If we truly believed we would answer these questions we might never take up art as a career.
The lucky few do find answers though, and then what? Keep on painting? It can only be for the sake of it, right? To entertain oneself.
Or do we continue after reaching inner peace in order to teach 'the way', or 'a way'?
Surely this is not the most helpful thing for us to do. Which artist wants to hear that to be a successful artist means to not need to create your art anymore? None.
At least there cannot be many brave enough to actually consider rescinding their ‘serious’ search in order to live the life of an untroubled, happy human.
Albert Camus claimed that there is only one philosophical question to answer. Do I want to live? If the answer is yes, shut up and live.
I suppose with art it must be the same. Art or shut up.
Do not fear judges. If someone judges your approach to art they are BUSINESS people approaching art as business; as if there could be any correct way to BE an artist. There isn’t.
There is no way to BE a correct human and there is no way to BE a correct artist.
One can do it. Or not do it. It is entirely your choice.
The hundred thousand artists out there who are similar to you are similar to you. You will stand out somehow, sometimes but this may unfortunately go unrecognised.
For it to be recognised is down to luck. For you to recognise your difference is also down to luck, since developing a lack of personal faith is a sticky trait in the competitive art world. How can we be great if no one important says we are great?
Let me just add here the highly appropriate and beautifully worded hashtag addition to a friend’s recent Facebook post –
The Same as Everyone Else
Artist is a definition like all the others. You are not what you do for a living. An artist is a job like any other. The reverence with which we use the word artist raises the artists (and the artists own expectations) higher than it should. Artist as a title should be a leveler. A sign that you are of the universal understanding that everyone is a Buddha; One of 7 billion Buddhas doing their own thing just like everyone else.
Art is not a higher calling. It is not a calling at all. It is nature. Every child on the planet has this desire not to follow the crowds. There are no callings, no words, no explanations.
In conclusion I ask you to picture this scene. A scene played out in Utopia where every artist and human shines brilliantly.
Mini-Drama - by MJR
Art as it is in heaven….
"That's an absolutely beautiful painting, Michael. Perfection."
"With this painting I was trying to...."
"Well it’s done.”
"I mean I was looking for..."
"I want to..."
"You GOT IT! Now go drink some fine wine with your family and friends till you are sleepy. Remember: there are no hangovers in heaven, Michael. Enjoy."
"Can I be called Svatopluk?"
"You already are."
I enjoy showing people the Prague art scene and what it represents and presents to us.
Simple stories. Short messages. Quick news. Small Aha! moments, guidance, encouragement and perhaps a little exhilaration.
So if you have a group of friends who have the same interests, let them know about this blog and follow me on Facebook.