Over at The Times Online, author Jeanette Winterson has written a rather straightforward look at art in our time, what it means to create it, and what it means to appreciate it.
Of course much of what passes for art today is merely hype, or fashion, or showmanship, but this has always been the case. Art makers and art fakers live side by side in any century. Time sieves them out. What matters is not to be endlessly labelling and judging, but to be open to our own culture � to assume we have something to say. The past was not better or richer, but it was slower. Art needs time. Our impatience with art might be just that � we�re in a hurry, and art needs time.
Hmm. Wasn’t I arguing this a month or two ago? Something about our contemporary culture being rush-rush and beset by microwaves and lightning-fast internet connections, and losing our ability to appreciate culture?
Winterson says something similar:
The released energies of art, in whatever medium, are a kind of radar trying to steer us back to sanity. We are not sane. We live in a 24-hour emergency zone called real life, where money is the core value, and where our inner life is denied.
Hmm. So, art validitates inner worth? Art constitutes a sort of moral compass?
When you sit down to read a book or to listen to a piece of music or walk round an exhibition, without interruption, the first thing you are doing is turning your gaze inwards. The demands and distractions of the world have to wait.
This, I think, is the problem. People can’t stop to listen to what art evokes from within them, because they’re afraid. Why else do we stop up our metaphorical and literal ears with noise and busyness? We’re losing our ability to listen; yes. What should we do about it? Telling people to go walk through an art gallery is fine, but will it actually succeed? I doubt it. The people who are going to go to an art gallery are those who are already predisposed to do so. Those people who are filling their lives with white noise are precisely the ones who have no idea that silencing the tumult around them might be beneficial.
As appreciative as I am of the article, and as much as I agree with it on the surface, I sense an imbalance. I know it’s supposed to focus on art as opposed to the rest of life, but it seems to infer that anything not art (nice, quiet, slow, coaxing out our valuable inner lives) is detrimental. The article is, of course, arguing for a balance, a contrast, a healing change of pace now and again, but she’s preaching to the converted, I think.