I was wandering through Casa Video the other day when I heard someone say to a friend, "I don't want to rent anything too artsy."
Now, this could have been just another one of those days when I feel like everyone I encounter is offensive in one way or another, but to me, this comment was strange. I've always assumed that filmmaking is an art, no questions asked.
For me, the comment was just another example of American society's annoying and detrimental habit of separating art from life. I have no statistics to back up this observation, because it is just that; an observation.
With the bureaucratic efficiency that our society strives toward, it isn't surprising that art's integral place in life has been discarded along the wayside. Organization, downsizing and efficiency allow little room for the gradual conception of artistic forms.
I see people every day who have not separated art from life, but often they've separated themselves from "mainstream society," whatever that may be. They sit at cafes all day, sketchbook or journal in hand; I see them in the middle of nowhere, meditating on open space and the thoughts running through their minds. But I don't see them in the offices and various other places most people visit every day in order to keep up in the rat-race as "functional members of society."
Those who are able to combine art and "real life" often need to consciously remove themselves from the stress that one or the other imposes, sometimes creating extremely frustrating cycles of creativity that do not exactly correspond with due dates, deadlines or time in general. Regardless, they produce the art that enriches our lives, whether we're aware of it or not.
"Art is too controversial," "art is too hard to understand," I've heard it all. I don't know when it happened, but somewhere along the way, art lost its meaning as a form of communication for most Americans. This is really quite tragic, because when we lose our ability to communicate in a medium that is natural to the human psyche, relationships suffer, whether they be personal or international. Limiting everyone to verbal and written communication is a flat denial of the visual artist deep within.
While some manage to speak through art, they're still misunderstood or shunned by those who are out of touch with their efforts.
Take art displayed in public places for example, which often creates controversy. Of course not everyone is going to agree with the message of one artist, but instead of viewing this controversy as a constructive method of rendering people more tolerant of one another, the art is often removed from sight.
This isn't how other forms of communication work Ä I'd really like to not have to see Rush Limbaugh's face on books, posters and bumper stickers everywhere I go. I don't really like hearing his voice on my radio. But this doesn't mean Limbaugh will be removed from the public eye because his ideas are controversial, or even because he's not so nice to look at.
It is quite ironic as well that while administrators sit in their offices cutting art funding from school or city budgets, they probably do not realize that an artist helped design the building they're sitting in, the silk tie they're wearing and the ornate mahogany chairs in their waiting rooms. They do not understand the frustrations and creative blocks these artists struggled with to create their environment.
Life is art Ä it surrounds us and nurtures us, and it should be acknowledged in living our lives. But if we cannot communicate visually, except through a manipulative metal box in our living rooms, artistic images will not serve their purpose in our communities. Perhaps the stereotype that artists and their creations are emotionally unapproachable, even dysfunctional, will never be cast aside, but if it could be, then an amazing communication mechanism would be unearthed.
"Take It or Leave It" is a weekly column where art reporters express their frustration with the rest of the world; if you do not agree with or understand the views, be tolerant; maybe someday you will.
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