Saturday, November 5, 2011

Suffering to Produce Art?

What is it about suffering that makes good art?

Let's back up, because maybe you disagree with the premise.  Or maybe it is stated too generally to disagree or agree with. What makes folks who have seemed to suffer produce good art?  Or, alternatively, what makes previously good artists who make it commercially, bad.

Alternative scenarios:

1) The artist's work hasn't changed at all, but the viewing of the work has changed

2) The work has changed in a dramatic fashion, and superceded the public's taste for the work: the artist has, essentially, advanced, or branched out, faster than allowable to stay relevant (in the current country/culture/milieu/etc).

3) The artist never suffered at all.  But mass appeal came about and changed his/her status, so that his/her work must now be taken more seriously.  Anything taken more seriously--i.e. anything we're willing to become more familiar with--will yield some forgiveness in the dance we call perception.

I'd like to propose that artists do indeed get worse if they don't push themselves (or somehow are pushed).   I don't think it is the suffering that causes good arts, but the capacity to back away from the suffering, to get through it, to have a change of perspective, that allows a certain alignment, a certain insight, and, after a lot of work, perhaps, some art can emerge built on that insight.  In short, without becoming uncomfortable, we don't change perspectives too fast, and don't produce very good art.

Disclaimer: There's a long continuum between dissonant art and consonsant art--i.e. art that drastically differs from what you expect (so much so that it takes serious amounts of time to begin comprehending it) and art that is slick, easy to digest and finds instant resonance.  However, it is assumed at times that consonant art is somehow inauthentic.  That's perhaps not the case as much as we (cynics) would like to think.  It is incredibly hard to produce a piece of very slick immediately available art.  It may even be easier, at times, to produce something aphasic, ineffable, or so dissonant that there can be almost no audience besides those sympathetic with the artist, and not because the art is available to them.  Having said that, naturally those folks who become specialized in viewing art have a different taste, by virtue simply of higher exposure.  I'm not exactly sure what role that plays in the fundamentals of the piece of art on display yet though.

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