What is art? I long thought it was about the work. Then I stepped onto the problem of distinguishing art from design, and I just gave up thinking any more. Recently I started to think that art is the chemical reaction that happens between the artist (or his work) and the audience. But again, what is the difference between emotional reactions? Should I admit that the inferiority-complex-mixed-with-paternal-absence-with-a-spice-of-self-loath Michael Bay catharsis is yet another grand piece of art?
I am thinking that it is about the universe. You may call it the devine. God. Alien. It does not matter much because I believe we are looking at the same rotating mirror ball. Art is the experience of touching the universe. The more precise the art(ist) is, the closer we are to the universe. We are part of the universe of course, so probably it is about moving AWAY from our usual position in the universe and touch/watch/hear/smell/taste it from outer realms.
Sometimes a piece of art can be so precise that it automatically invokes the devine experience in almost anybody who encounters it. Think of Mona Lisa, Tibetan Buddhist art, wild animals in motion, or even a woman’s body. Or in some cases the experience occurs when the work is united with the artist, such as “What a Wonderful World” sung by Louis Armstrong. Or in other cases the work, the artist, and the audience together touch the universe, for example when a little girl plays her violin in front of the audience for the first time.
I don’t think it is sufficient to describe what goes on inside ourselves as mere “chemical reactions” because in case of art, there is always some revelations of “the truth.” We do not simply feel or be moved; we know. We know a truth that we haven’t been aware of previously, and it is about touching the universe (for a brief moment). Yes, I am using the term “truth” and “universe” interchangeably.
We too easily fall into the trap of disregarding art as a luxury. But what exactly is point of our life without “luxuries”? We learn and work to make money, to support ourselves and our families, to eat healthily and to sleep well. Ultimately they all go down to enjoying our lives fully, and don’t we “enjoy” when we connected with something that cannot be translated into numbers or money? When we look into the eyes of ones we love, eat great food, have great sex, we all are enjoying touching the universe. Art is just another way to do that, and therefore, it is anything but a luxury.