Friday, February 20, 2009

Three paragraphs about art

These artists meet every Thursday night to sip wine and Lucky lager, smoke, and talk about their latest endeavors. They talk with each other and they take turns going over each other’s processes and escapades, a little like a big confessional. “I can’t do any work before 6pm, but I usually work for 12 hours straight, until 6am. I created this last art show of mine in 6 weeks,” said one artist. They discuss other things like new jokes, politics, and an air of competition lingers in the air with the stale smoke.

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I remember when I used to make art as a kid, I would sit and draw for hours, copying images from comic books and from role playing games, imagining fantasy worlds with my pencil. As a kid, and later a teenager, this behavior, though indulgent, was acceptable, and was never about drugs or alcohol. Better than sitting and playing a video game for hours on end, right? And now, in my thirties, I question what art making is, specifically, it as a behavior. Why do humans feel this need, to create these objects/art? If it's to communicate, why aren’t the other animals doing it?(or maybe they are and I just haven't seen it). For most, making art is a very solitary pursuit. In some cases, an artist can sit for hours making a single object.

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Weirdly enough, I checked my email while writing this and there was an interesting letter from Robert Genn in my mailbox...here's a paragraph that relates.

Connecting Darwin's evolutionary theory to the making and appreciating of art, Dutton says that art had its origins as a display that might lure prospective mates. He views art-making as a skill that only an extraordinary individual could perform--a person who perhaps exhibited a degree of laid-back leisure and who didn't have to expend full resources on the basics. This evolved artistic character could also be seen as taking part in casual, exploratory pursuits, the outcome of which was often unknown. Dutton's idea is that art is a kind of specialized fitness display.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

I sure hope it's more than puffing out one's feathers. Actually I'm convinced it is. It's communication. I wonder why you would question art making, but not talking, or writing?

jc said...

Probably because I make art.
I think it is a very appropriate discussion on a blog called A Love for Art. Where's artist's anonymous when you need it, eh?

I'd have to disagree with you about art being the same as writing and talking.

And...I don't think you can dismiss the very act of puffing out one's feathers. It's a very important act, in mating rituals, in self appreciation, etc. We've being doing this for thousands of years anon.

scribe said...

the art-making part is often solitary, but the artwork that's created provides us with opportunities to interact and connect and share - communication. i think whether it's self-indulgent or not depends on what's communicated and why the artist is communicating it. artists can be motivated to be of service to humanity in general or to some other higher cause.

ideally artists have an important role among humans, communicating ideas of all kinds. even more ideally artists can communicate wisdom or soul-nutrients that provide an evolutionary advantage to those who learn from what they take in. this creates multitudes of successful offspring in the form of understanding. by sharing their best ideas in poetic visual and aural forms artists can provide evolutionary opportunities for the entire human community. art-making may have emerged to provide an evolutionary advantage to the individual, but its possible origins don't require it to remain a self-aggrandizing pursuit.

this article by stuart kauffman raises some very interesting questions.

overall, the question "why am i doing what i'm doing" is important. the answers to that question aren't simple or easy, and they aren't surface realities. if we want answers to a question like that we have to be brave enough to face ourselves. ideally we can learn to answer that question in a non-judgmental way, and aspire to correct our oversights and nurture ourselves towards our ideals. the non-judgmental part is essential, it allows us to move forward without getting stuck denying reality to protect ourselves from blame or shame.

Prairie Grown said...

I took a photo of a wasp nest which was a side profile of a bison's head. So yes, they do create art.

And if one believes in spirit animals, one can look up the significance of bison appearing in one's life. "It's gift is that of manifesting abundance through right action and right prayer."

"The wasp teaches how to use diversity to their advantage. Balancing all aspects is an art in itself and can take a lifetime to accomplish. By observing the wasp we can learn how to shape shift our outer image and become more connected to our inner knowing."

Perhaps one day I will post the photo.

Hugging you with my heart.

greg oakes said...

i enjoyed those three paragraphs; i like odd numbers.

TheBlueMask said...

"Connecting Darwin's evolutionary theory to the making and appreciating of art, Dutton says that art had its origins as a display that might lure prospective mates"
Most females in the animal kingdom only care about the males perceived strenghth and health. They don't give a shit about a lion's artistic ability lol.

A quote from 2 female lemurs in Ice Age was something like this: "He was was so kind, but all the sensitive one's get eaten"

Quitmoanez said...

I enjoyed all 4 comments!

Linking evolutionary theory to anything is possible, and very easy, as ultimately, our very lives, as individuals and as a species, is about survival, full stop.

The trick is not to let this totalising theory totalise.

I do agree with the idea that animals make art, and the examples given about bees and even the sprit animals I can jive with, qualifying them as a type of meta-art.

But there still is a difference in Knackerson the monkey and the monkey.

At one point, pre-cromagnon-Knack found out that art was possible, but I think he did so b/c of his brain and his interaction to self, and not b/c it attracted mates.

Now, his brain might have attracted mates, b/c he might have had better strategies for survival, but art wasn't the product sought by the mate, at least not directly.

I also think this is where the isolationist quality of art comes in, meaning that monkey-Knack decided to spend more and more time with artistic production and himself, and prioritised this over other mating behaviour, which were surely more impressive, feats of strength and daring being two that I would rank before feats of artistic creativity.

He left, ate mushrooms, and communed with the spirits on occasion as well.

MonkeyKnack, purveyor of survival.

I digress.

Now what else I find interesting about art-making and sociobiology, i.e. understanding everything from the point of evolution, is what art then does to use over the long-term and what that means for the evolution of our species.

This is where the glue or communal notion of art that the scribe introduced is cool.

While potentially solitary at the individual level, socially, art becomes a place to commune, a place to consider things like good and bad, right and wrong.

Indeed, the artist has a fundamentally creative role in the evolution of societies, and by creative I also encompass the creation of chaos, revolt, destruction, etc.

We have two masters of the latter in monkeyKnack and Captain Excellent Styles if I may say.

renamaphone said...

I'm loving this post + comments.