Can our own art save us in the end? (The work is the spider)

Illustration by LaSimo

Can our own art save us in the end?

La(S)imo: So, can our own art save us in the end?

(C)arcazan: Yes, always yes. Even if what we need saving from may be different, even if the concept of being “saved” may be different for each person, even if it’s prescribed as a form of therapy or just a passion, whether it’s the reassertion of the human heart over the human brain at times… whether it is a work that helps others feel better about sometime… art is the earliest form of (wo)man’s efforts to communicate with people they never even met through epochs of time — think about cave drawings… It’s our soul’s ink.

S: A recent exchange reminded me of our own role in shutting out messages  that would force us to negotiate a change with ourselves. So, while a crucial topic, art production seems 50% of the need. The remaining 50% being to open oneself to listening. Switch off for a moment your artist identity — if possible — and tell me, is there anything that you try not to listen to, something to which you refuse to be an audience?

C: “Production” is not just an outcome with art, it’s a state of mind, it’s seeing the same thing in different ways.  If it’s already in you, it’s hard to splice that off — I see things the way I do because art or the artist in me is intrinsic to who I am; I can’t imagine what it’s like to “un-see” the world as I do because I’ve never not had the artist’s eye-dea.

S: It feels like you ditched the question, though…

C: It’s a bit hard when the premise determines that a need is 50% art production and 50% listening, it’s pre-determined, and I don’t know what that’s based on… and you’ve said “if possible”… and I equate being an audience to hearing with my eye and mind as much as listening. I may protect myself from what I perceive as harmful things like hate speech or extreme right-wingism, but sometimes in order to effectively change things or achieve a balanced to a narrative you’ve got to know what is out there in order to bring out the realities.. once I learn about something I may even be afraid of, I can then decide whether to step back from it, or try to change it.

S: Let me put that differently: an artifact will save us if there is an us, i.e. someone who offers the artifact and someone who “receives” it, its meaning. The 50-50 split is merely a rational of the number 2, the minimum to make an “us”.  You are sometimes audience, even when your “receiving” will eventually feed your next creation.  I have seen myself for a long time as a storyteller, and to collect stories seemed just part of my nature. But an overwhelming journey made me distance myself from something that impaired my ability to function. Which resulted in less collecting and a numbing of my wish to tell stories. In other words, I killed at once the artist and the audience.  While I do believe that art is crucial, I don’t know how to cure oneself from the self-designed escape. For survival or other selfish purpose.

C: So 2 concepts here: the 50/50 split you describe is a uniquely scientific approach to what I guess I see as like breathing in and breathing out in order to live… you make, some people see it and receive it, some people never do — but if you’re only making in order that others receive, you’ll always be disappointed and the equation will then mean you’re 100% not doing it for the right reasons… I agree we ourselves are audience and artist, we tell OUR stories through words or art or another medium to exhume them, to give them an outlet, to “go there” even subconsciously because frankly it might be a topic we just don’t want to talk about or don’t know HOW to… and that’s where art comes in… The other concept is a simple one: when you said “self-designed escape” I immediately thought of the A-ha video for ‘Take On Me’ — there’s a part where the main characters are being chased inside a scrunched up comic world, they reach a wall and when there’s nowhere left to go, Morten Harket just carves an escape route through the wall…. that’s a self-designed escape. That’s what art does — it allows you to open an outlet in every brick wall or emotional barrier.  So I wouldn’t want to “cure” myself from self-designed escape, because that’s what art is all about.  Maybe you see it as a negative thing whereas I see it as the point.

S: Artistic production implies an audience — it may not be why one makes art, but it must be part of the design — I know we share this knowledge. So, I am trying to move the spotlight away from the artist (their personal goals or resulting self-fulfilment or disappointment) towards the artist-audience molecule — because the initial question “can art save us” is about the us.  While I love the breathing metaphor — artist and audience roles as two sides of the same existential act and need, it still focuses on the individual. Besides, most of “us” (and here I am just trying to avoid the dualism us/them comparing myself to a passive audience, the one that is hardest to capture) see themselves as non-artists. Perhaps one way could be to invite them in, making their input feel relevant, but we also know that offering a stage without an adequate education sponsors social minefields — enemy of constructive dialogue and seed of hatred-based clustering. If the answer is “only” in education, we have to give up on those who are out of the system. What are the ways to reach those who do not want to listen? My recurring strategy is that of the spider: part of my artistic design always includes a web designed to capture also those who do not share my values.

C: How to use storytelling to effect social change is something that UAL’s AKO Storytelling Institute is dedicated to exploring, so outcomes from there will be interesting and in this day and age, essential.  Some people don’t actually want to listen, so all your reaching and genius won’t make a difference. Neither will preaching to the converted… There’s a brilliant Danish short film ‘All That We Share’ which offers an insight into how to at least initially dissolve the “them and us” narrative.. It’s one way of getting people to listen who may not have considered themselves as part of a group or message they might have previously distanced themselves from… Viewing as an artist or using your own stories or emotions to make…

S: The work is the spider… With all its ramifications, this could be the answer.  I am unable to make the courting dance of the peacock spider — but perhaps I just need my story to do that.  So, art can save us, and the strategy is for art to be the author of its own web.  Trusting that it may reach, embracing doubt and forgiving your selfish desire to know its journey.  Where do we go from here?

C: Up! Once work is out there and we may have poured our heart and soul into it, what if nobody sees it or it has no impact? How far is feedback or impact a part of our creative journey? What if it  doesn’t matter to anyone but us? S: Next week is going to be a rollercoaster… Looking forward to it!

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