I wanted to pull together the strands of thought that have been exercising me this week, if only to continue with those things I need to do with a new clarity.
Firstly, I wrote that art is as diverse as humanity itself and thank goodness for that. That’s not to say we can subjectively appreciate all artistic creation, including our own. Here’s what Kurt Vonnegut, who was born this day in 1922, said about that:
The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something. — A Man Without a Country, 2005
Then I moved onto the idea that dominant aesthesia, the sense perception, can preclude our appreciation of some of what Kurt talks about; it can lead to a narrowing of the senses, which is what I consider to be a sensitivity. Sometimes a sensitivity, or sensibility, can be a gift: it allows us to bring a rigorous focus to bear on some small, sometimes unobservable, detail in another object. This can gift us an intuition, a precious insight, an understanding. But this narrowing needs also to widen again and soon (hence this post); for if it remains as the contraction of your senses you can only experience your own, and others creations, with the terrible pains of a labour gone wrong, risking stillbirth. Or it’s the clenching of a fist, useful in a fight, but a deformity if you can never uncurl your fingers and offer your palms to the world. If you cannot open yourself wide after a tight and painful contraction you cannot be reborn through your own artistic creation.
Aesthetics and art are thus intertwined, but there needs to be an appreciation of both, an acceptance of the pain of sensitivity to the product and the joy of the relief in the creative process. Without that we are simply winding our umbilical connection to the universe around our necks.