Last week I wrote 4 art reviews. Which meant little or no time for reading. Hopefully this week will give me some time to catch up.
As stated before, I am as a critic (by the definition Alain de Botton and many others operates with) a part of the art establishment. I agree with this way of defining my role. Which again makes me a target for de Botton & Armstrong’a critique.
… the art establishment proceeds under the assumption that art can have no purpose in any instrumental or utilitarian sense. It exists “for art’s sake,” and to ask anything more of it is to muddy pure and sacred waters.
This refusal to name a purpose seems profoundly mistaken. If art is to deserve its privileges (and it does), we have to learn how to state more clearly what it is for and why it matters in a busy world. I would argue that art matters for therapeutic reasons. It is a medium uniquely well suited to helping us with some of the troubles of inner life: our desire for material things, our fear of the unknown, our longing for love, our need for hope.
In short – the problem posited by Alain de Botton and John Armstrong is as follows: Despite the importance placed on art by most of those concerned with it much of the population remains at a loss as to what its actual use is.
I find the critique timely and appropriate. I see my task as critic to make art accessible and important for my readers. But how can I best do this without limiting the case in question? Looking at art as therapy might be very useful, but it might also lead us to neglect arts distinctive character as something out of the ordinary. As something transgressing common sense. Isn’t art more often than not inexplicable?
Art (…) is an apothecary for the soul. Yet in order for it to act as one, we have to learn to consider works through more personal, emotionally rich lenses than museums and galleries employ. We have to put aside the customary historical reading of works of art in order to invite art to respond to certain quite specific pains and dilemmas of our psyches.
What I do like in a statement like this, is that it gives our personal experience a more central position, it brings art out of the field of introvert theory and into our personal lives. It underlines every persons individual experience as important.