Saturday, May 05, 2007

How dare we make art?

After World War 2, Karl Jaspers wrote a by now classic text about guilt, The Question of German Guilt. In his taxonomy, one of the categories of guilt is the "metaphysical guilt", which could be explained as the guilt for not sacrificing ourselves to help others. That is, living our lives and not doing everything we can to make a difference.
The question is, how far can we go? Shouldn't we abandon all forms of art (and entertainment), then, if we are to concentrate all efforts on saving the world? Is there an actual possibility that it would change something?
Of course, that sounds rather extreme. (And that's why Jaspers considers this a metaphysical guilt, shared by everyone and beyond the possibility of making it disappear in any way but through self-sacrifice). But somewhere here lie very difficult issues: why should one spend my time making quite self-centered installations when one could be working in an effective, world-changing organization? Should art be justifiable, like any other product, service, activity?
It isn't about art giving the possibility to do more. Because quite frankly the above video is an exception, and works exactly because it is one. Maybe, it is about the possibility of assuming uselessness?
Beauty is a great motivator. Indeed. (In João Fiadeiro's most recent performance (soon more about that), a sentence from Deleuze (roughly remembered by me): «I started reading Leibniz's Ethics. I am discovering that joy brings more power to act»)
But can we honestly say we make art, and see art, to motivate us? Isn't it a goal in itself? And if so, can't we spend our energy in a better way? How dare we make art?


Hans said...

One of my teachers said, the time you spend on art is extra time you'll get added from God at the end of your life.

Hans said...

We could ask Leonardo, how he dared not to quit art, but try to save the world in his time... ;-))

Bliss5150 said...

I remember Joseph Campbell saying to the effect of "Changing yourself you change the world." However, that has recently been perverted by "The Secret."

However some of his lessons hold unperverted like:

An invigorated human being invigorates other humans.

The world is perfect just the way it is, a perfect mess.
You’re job is not to change it, because you can’t, it’s always been this way.

Are you upset because God didn’t ask your advice on how things “should” be?

Don’t look on other people as being “poor” or victims and try to help them that way, because you tend to put yourself higher in station than they are. And this is not what a compassionate human being does.


I love your blog it’s a great duty you perform.

vvoi said...

Hi bliss, great to have you here! I read some Campbell and enjoyed it. As for the ambition of changing the world, I wasn't aiming that far (I think). It was really more about some simple choices I make. I worked in an NGO for a short while. It was a great endeavor, really. Working with others, not just for them. And it was a very clear-cut situation: making a difference nearly every time. But also when working as a waiter or doing other things, I felt it quite directly. Still, art seems tricky on that point. It can mean so many things - the same WORK can sometimes be seen as such a terrible waste of everyone's time, when it seemed like something brilliant just a while ago... I guess there is a question of relative weight I find scary. But this is very personal. And your last sentence was a gem in this context ;)

crescent said...

Couldn't art help generate ideas to help change the world for the better? Could we realistically claim that politics, science, technology and business has changed the world for the better?


Anonymous said...

Guernica, that say's it all.


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