Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Family Album


I would venture that each of us has felt, at one point or another, that we don't quite belong. In school, at home, in work - even with friends. So, how is it that I could be feeling "I don't feel like a part of this family" when my brother next door in his room, or my mother in hers, or my friends and their relatives, all feel that way too occasionally. Where do we all fit and, if we each of us sometimes feel the misfit, oughtn't we feel a sense of kinship as a band of misfits, and, thus, never feel alienated again? 

Well, no, not while we continue to harbour these feelings in secret, as fleeting thoughts while someone chats enthusiastically at us, or us them while they effectively mask their distance... 

I've often wished that people would be more open about these sorts of things, perhaps not face to face constantly while people are busy with their busyness(that could be embarrassing and feel like burdening someone's mind unnecessarily with worries of your own).

 But maybe if more people broached the subject of feeling estranged in the midst of supposedly similar folk (often with a unifying tie such as the same boss or job or family or teacher, as mentioned) in the form of an online diary or blog, in words or carefully (and cathartically) assembled images, so that you're not "bothering" anyone in particular, but that you still have the potential to reach out to others indirectly - providing a platform for others to discuss their own multi-faceted feelings of inadequacy. 

Or if not to discuss then at least not feel so terribly isolated. This is essentially what this blog of mine is, chewing over issues and trying out hypotheses without actively badgering anyone individually. It was Leonard Cohen, in his fantastically astute novel, The Favourite Game, who rather cynically put: 

“The world was being hoaxed by a disciplined melancholy, all the sketches made a virtue of longing. All that was necessary to be loved widely was to publish one’s anxieties. The whole enterprise of art was a calculated display of suffering.”

However jaded his words make him seem (though rather tongue-in-cheek since he's spent his life reaching out to others by way of his own beautifully packaged woe), I think he's touched upon something fundamental about the function of art here. The "desire to be loved widely" can be seen not as fame-seeking but rather, approval-seeking, and what is wrong with wanting to be accepted and valued, understood? 
In their new book Art as Therapy, Philosophers Alain de Botton and John Armstrong propose that "art has a clear function: it is a therapeutic tool to help us lead more fulfilled lives." 
Whilst I'm only a couple of chapters into the book so far it all seems clear and sensical. Though they propose artworks should come with more useful blurb beside them in museums (such as this Vanitas work is good for putting things in perspective etc.,.), I can't help thinking that not all artworks must come with such user manuals. I can see the utility and thoughtfulness in such a move, but I also know that sometimes it's valuable to empathise with a painting without having to know very much about it other than the surface, you do the rest in your mind. 

I can also see though, that I sit in a privileged position as a spectator who also creates. I don't feel the stigma of having to describe an artwork "correctly" that my non-university-Fine-Arts-educated parents might for example. 

Which is odd since surely I should be worried about "getting it wrong". I know though that I'm sometimes brave (and perhaps bored) enough to delve into my feelings occasionally and offer them up for scrutiny, a sort of "I don't care if you think I'm spouting nonsense at the moment since, if I had any insecurities regarding the validity of my currently voiced opinions, I wouldn't be opining aloud in the first instance!" 

I am keen to put to bed this idea of "art for art's sake", don't get me wrong I'm not a luddite any more than I am a fan of snobbery or a class system with regards to culture (or indeed, any other system in operation). I just feel that because people don't feel the need to explain their artistic endeavours, they don't put much mental (or for that matter aesthetic) substance into them. With tacky and trying consequences. A little more earnestness wouldn't go amiss in the art world. 

It must be said that I am in no way perfect with regards to the scant and suspect output of visual art I presently toil over, indeed I often offer very little explanation. I like to think though, that it is clear, I am not out to shock or impress in any shallow sense, and, though I don't state or seek via my captioning, that the pieces themselves (are obvious and predictable enough to) do all the searching and sharing, without over-annotation. I would appreciate feedback though. 

I have come to feel increasingly pointless, specifically regarding my almost need to put little scraps together as pages in non-existent books, all the while falling before seemingly closed eyes. Let me know what you linger over (if at all), what could be tossed (even if all of it) and so on.

I hope you will look upon some of the less awful pages in my family album and draw parallels with your own quests for answers and new questions, where you fit in, where you come from, what is "love"? Does it even mean anything?