I was talking to one of my very talented, very artistic friends recently and he made this strong suggestion:
“Art is dead.”
At first, it didn’t sit very well. The period at the end is so… so defeating. If this statement stirs up a response, even indignation inside you like it did me, then I wonder why. Why are you offended by this idea that art and creativity have died a painful death?
I’m offended because I want to believe it’s not so. Somewhere deep down, beneath the indigestion and tortillas, somewhere in that “gut” region people refer to when talking about instincts, I refuse. Something in me revolts at the finality – there is no room for explanation. Just a period and that’s it.
It’s like falling off the monkey bars on the playground and landing flat on my back. I’m laying there, with the wind knocked out of me, unsteady and unsure of what just happened.
After I caught my breath, I realized I agree with him. Nearly everything “creative” these days is a well-dressed marketing ploy to respond to our basest desires. With all our technology and supposed intellectual advancement, we tread the very same trail to bark up the very same tree, whose roots reach only as deep as our most carnal desires.
Instead of searching for music or entertainment that makes us think and question and understand life, we look for a spoonful of sugar so that (what we pass for) art goes down easy. We don’t want art to challenge us or move us or convict us because… well, that doesn’t feel good. We want to take in a movie like we take in the uber-buttered, theatre popcorn… without thinking. We want to walk out with our heads bobbing, digesting the plate full of artistic pudding without questioning the grumblings in our bellies for something of more substance.
The second part of my friend’s thought took a step closer to my offended spirit. He suggested I’m to blame. Art is dead and my death killed it. I again had to shake the shock of such a suggestion, but again arrived at a convicted conclusion. I agree.
How can something dead make something living? How can an unconscious potter work with clay? How can life come from death? We re-work the same ideas, plots, notes, melodies, story lines centered around sex, money, jealousy, and greed. Then we pronounce it “version 2.0” and, with some clever advertising, have people believing they are consuming something that has “never before been seen.” I almost apologized just now for being so cynical, but I held back because it wouldn’t be genuine.
The Original Creator took great care in designing the smallest details, from the juice pockets in oranges to the strange mating habits of penguins. Creation is so complicated that we will never, ever exhaust its intricacies. If we let ourselves marvel, we will never be bored and the subject will never be dull. Never.
How does God accomplish this? How does He keep our attention?
This is certainly not the end of my musings on this subject, but please chime in with your thoughts!
Also, I read this article over at The Gospel Coalition and I really appreciate the views on creativity, the arts, and the church.