This may seem like a really odd question to ask. “Is art a commodity or a relationship?” When I say commodity I mean is art just a product you can buy and use or does it have more value and more expression then that? Does it connect with us in some way, does it communicate to us or can art just be reduced to pencil, paintbrush and glue? In which case we may view art as dead and something we can pick up and throw away when we like without considering the value of it nor the person behind it.
But I don’t believe art to be dead at all, rather it is living and communicating to its audience. I grant you, I don’t understand it all but that doesn’t lose its meaning or purpose at all. Why am I so bothered about this? I think because we have hit a stage in life where everything is about being entertained, everything is about having a quick buzz and fix until our brains are pulsing on entertainment like squirts of red bull in our neurons.This leads to so many dangers in our relationships with each other, which I really want to come to next.
Ellis Potter says that when it comes to art people say - “I am what I like, I am what I enjoy” and this is something we need to move away from. He is saying that we define ourselves by the entertainment value that something else has. People say: “I don’t know much about art, but I know what I like” and so we reduce everything to what we like rather than be challenged, stimulated and moved by everything else. If we define everything by how entertaining it is to us and how it appeals to my life, then we can move away from some of the most influential, ugly, beautiful, inspirational, strange art and say that we would rather not listen to what it says because it does not entertain us.
Ellis Potter goes on to say “If we see art as a product to be produced and consumed, then we can be self-centered and protective – is this how we treat people?” Ellis makes a link between how we view art to how we view people and I think he has hit on to something here. You may have no interest in art like that of a painting, but I bet you consume and watch some form of TV or surf the internet or read blogs or books… all of which is art in some form and I wonder if it’s all for entertainment? If we treat everything for its entertainment value in our lives, then there is a danger to treat people the same. We can see someones value to us by how much they might add to our lives, how they provide amusement, encouragement, joy, love, sustaining conversation etc. But what about the people who can’t add that “entertainment value” to your life because they don’t appeal to you, they are needy, they are outsiders, they are hurt, they don’t talk much, they are awkward – do we ignore them because they add nothing of that “entertainment value” to our lives? Do we do this in church?
Art is more than just a canvas on a wall, art is an expression of emotions, ideas and the values of the people behind this art and their hearts.
I think the question is whether we see everything in life as a product to be used, sold or thrown away? That includes people and art. Is anything a relationship to us? In church we are very big on community and relationships – but sometimes we stray into the idea of “is this good for us? is it edifying to us?” and its good to have integrity when it comes to watching things, but if we throw away everything without listening and understanding what our culture is screaming at us and seeing their real needs, then we are in danger of throwing away all the hurt, lost, sick, questioning people who come into our lives and they will not be entertainment to us but they will need great love and will certainly need Christ.
You can listen to Ellis Potters talk on Art here.