Art – emotional/intellectual

March 27, 2010

Is art an emotional experience or a rational one? Can art be both? Isn’t it mysterious that we go to school and by that definition are ‘taught’ to think, no one sends us to school to feel, we just do. Can our thinking influence our feelings? It probably does, which is why it perhaps is imperative to question the very notion of schooled thought. Ken Robinson states dramatically that schooling, the way we know it in modernity, exists to strip mine thinking/doing, to perform industrial tasks, in other words, to conform, but simultaneously we are growing out of creativity rather than into it.

You would not want your brain to be operated upon by an unschooled surgeon, or for that matter the plane to be flown by an untrained pilot. But we might want to begin questioning the schooled artist, musician and dancer, writer, poet or philosopher.

The problem is that we all agreed and made a pact  with Descartes, and assumed that our very existence is a function of thinking, homo sapiens and all that rubbish. ‘I think therefore I am’ is a neat but purulent thought. Rather a more enabling vision is ‘I dont think therefore I am’, and in that association is implicit going beyond thinking, to feeling. I think therefore I am, might distinguish us from the animal world, though dont have this conversation with a dog lover, but feeling therefore I am, might want to associate us with the sacred or divine.

The senses and intuition, that wonderfully indescribably quotient, that hovers and approximates between the senses, are nature’s way of providing inputs for learning, growth and fulfilling ones true potential. Societal pressure and the politics of the state make ‘schooling’ not learning mandatory, make teaching not educating implicit, make medi-care not health; and security not safety an issue. (Ivan Illich – De-schooling of society)

A German curator today mentioned that an indian artist she interviewed in Delhi told her something she found meaningful, that while in art school in Scotland he had to learn to be Indian in his aesthetic, and when he returned to india, he had to unlearn that. Is it possible that while abroad he had to learn to be Indian but back in the environment he had simply to Be? Invariably the environment itself will dictate your nationality and your mythologies. Aren’t we all aware of, with some irritation, the recent NRI with an accent. The environment is not necessarily a geo-political state, it could be a state of being and like Rupert Brooke, in the Patriot, let where ever he is buried be forever England.

In addition is the new rubric of the cultural theorist, the academic, the intellectual who attempts at ‘making sense’ out of chaos, drawing vectors across the art firmament to establish equations, inscribing, intention, influence,  interpretation and meaning. First came the professionals then came the professors, that might seem quite in order till you discover that the professionals are influenced heavily by the professors, the conundrum continues.

There is a new buzz in art, its called Conceptual, which in other words means, I can think, I can write,  I feel, I can read, I am literate, I have a great fucking idea, but I cant draw, sculpt, paint or dance or install or photograph to save my life, so my catalogue will be art, but what you pay Rs 10 million for I cant be bothered with. Put this rubbish canvass or shit on your wall or in your estate; close your eyes and have total recall of all the spell binding associated gyan  that enticed  you to shell out that sort of lucre, and intellectualize your pleasure. Its  masturbation, and fittingly you have to shut your eyes when you cum.

Its a bit like nouvelle cuisine, its all hyped to be the new IT. So when you go to this swish (read subdued lighting) restobar, and fork out enormous sums of money for a little bit of twig and drizzle over a microscopic bit of salmon or mouse, and you come out of that place late at night totally hungry and too embarrassed to say so, you raid the fridge and devour yesterdays left overs. In the morning though you will boast of this fine dining place you visited. Its a status thing. (Thosrtein Veblen described it ascerbically well in The Theory of the Leisure Class)

Its the emperor’s new clothes scenario where the marketing tails wag the dog. Now everything is art, you have simply to will it.

James Joyce in Portrait of the Artist as a young man, has some interesting things to say about art and its callings, he sees a messianic role for art.

If Art is the manifestation of Being, that gerund, that present continuous, conjugation of To Be, it sort of then summarises existence and identity. Who am I, where do I come from, and where am I going are as Transcendental as creation itself. That one sits at the computer in 38 degree heat with a deciduous pipal tree shimmering back lit in Mumbai and chatting simultaneously to 10 different people in different time zones and weather conditions makes one as Global as in the days of snail mail when one licked stamps and sent them off to 10 international pen pals. No different than when you can have streaming video pouring in at broadband speeds from different sources. Its only convenient now, not global at all.

How and who looks at Art, might best be examined at who and how we look at spirituality, science, literature, medicine, music, architecture, agriculture and language itself. It might be appropriate when entering someone’s home to take off our shoes, for who knows we could be treading on the sacred.

It is about Being and Nothingness eventually.

14 Responses to “Art – emotional/intellectual”

  1. Atul Says:


    You are wield a mighty pen and have given your thoughts quite a presence. Having said that let me confess that I am a DD ”photo” junkie.

    Reading what you write makes me work the intellect to understand what you are saying without the liberty of my own interpretation, without the joy and elation of sensory appeal that your photographs give me.

    Happy blogging….keep it coming.


    P.S. horrified to discover how “conceptual” I am…!!!

    • David Says:

      maybe that is why the cliché, a photograph worth a thousand words. Literature is more finite and directed in that sense, poetry perhaps more open to interpretation and still photographs perhaps more open than that too. so your comment makes some sense. Though what the word can achieve is different from music is different from the visual and that is why they all have their place and time. Have no fear, I continue to make photographs and you are one of the very few people on this planet to openly rejoice with me over them. thank you.

  2. jaideep Says:

    I loved the video piece with Sir Ken Thomas, it summed up a lot of what my wife & I felt about the education system. Having moved my child to a free thinking school from a regimented one, she not only flourished, but blossomed. I agree with the ’emperor’s new clothes’ phenomenon in art, predominantly when it comes neither from spontaneity, intellect or the genesis of the artist in question. Most of all, we are limited in our knowledge and if we can show but a spark in our quest, we have achieved something, if only for ourselves. You can safely add me to your fan club!

    • David Says:

      Thanks Jaideep, kind of new to blogging, but it is a good way to get whatever it is one wants to say out, whether there is someone to read it is quite another story.

  3. aavriti Says:

    The leisure class has so opened my eyes david.
    Im so glad i discovered your blog.

    your conceptual student,

    • David Says:

      VEblen was copied much later by Alvin Toffler who wrote Future Shock. but the core idea was Thorstein Veblen’s. I enjoyed the book when i read it so many years ago. He is a much un-discovered author, we all know about ‘conspicuous consumption’ but dont know most often who coined the term. I should introduce the class to Veblen when we do Helmut Newton and his take on stilettos.
      i hear you are a fashionista, or have radical views on fashion, superb. Show me!

  4. jayati Says:

    i droped out of kathak after eight years of training. i couldn’t say why then , but now i know.i couldn’t do what was taught to me by my teacher who did what was taught by her teacher.
    but,if it wasn’t for my hobby in doing origami, i would not have appreciated satish gujral’s, schooled to feel is ok , and schooled to express is not? or should it be the other way?
    i find flute pieces by pt.ronu mujumdar products of a very rational mind.
    are emotion and rationality absolutes?

    • David Says:

      hi good to hear from you, spoke about you yesterday in fact to priyanka’s sister who spent some time with us. if you are into origami, I must show you something that will blow you away. There is also a master fractal engineer who now folds paper with computer fractals and makes the most intricate objects. Lets connect and I will show you what I mean.

  5. Barbara Says:

    hi david,
    i enjoyed reading the text and in fact had a lot of fun with the ken robinson video – all so true.
    i gave a lot of tours in museums, also for kids, and it is just sad to see how they lose their originality and natural craziness and sense of anarchy at around the age of 7 or 8. wished we all would be able to keep alive these aspects of our souls and minds.
    robinson’s quote about the necessity for “being prepared to be wrong” is also very true regarding the art discourse, as i see it. the fear of being wrong (whatever that means in a discussion about contemporary art) makes many panel discussions and lectures repetetive and lifeless. i would love to see more helplessness and perplexity on panels and juries.

    • David Says:

      hi barabara

      too much certainty prevails in all aspects of living. at least manufactured certainty, and that might just be indicative of how much insecurity exists too. Was at the Goethe hall today as it turns out for a very charming book reading by a young German writer of a book called ‘Brother and Sister’.

  6. Carrie Perreault Says:

    Dear David,

    As I write this to you, you should know that I am atop of a mountain in a far away land with trees reminiscent of Emily Carr and coffee so good it would, and sometimes does, make young monks blush. It is with that, that you should know that I perhaps have an unfair advantage. (lol).

    I too heard the German curator of which I also found several keys points of interest, including the one you mention. It is to that I ask you what it means to be a 30-year-old white woman in a college in Mumbai. I suggest in good nature the words of Elizabeth Gilbert who humbly points to the obvious, “I had long ago learned that when you are the giant, alien visitor to a remote and foreign culture it is sort of your job to become an object of ridicule. It is the least you can do, really, as a polite guest.” I think sometimes it’s easy, in fact it’s always easy, to point fingers at the west and to shake them with diligence. I’m not certain that the curator or you are heading in that direction by any means but I’d consider it good nature for additional thought.

    Where I become livid is at your apparent attack and jump down the gull of conceptual artists. (There must be a decent personal story behind this one Mr. Commercial.) Conceptualism as you obviously know is nothing new. I am not new and its inception occurred long before I was dreamt of. I know that you of all people also know this to be true, so I must believe that your wording is in fact wrong. If I am to make such assumptions, than I’d also like to give you the opportunity to retract the whole damn thing. I, obviously enough, would categorize myself first and foremost as a conceptual artist (though I feel the term is a bit dated and perhaps inadequate) and yet… AND YET, I’ve never been compared to a twig or for that matter a bit of drizzle, not that I mind the comparison so much. Art is ideas. I dare you to tell me how I am wrong. Dare you. I will agree that there are plenty of poor displays of conceptual art, which miss the mark wholeheartedly. It would be unfair to say that this proportion is out of sink with other “skilled” art forms such as painting and drawing and how bold of you to assume that clicking a photo is a skill. (There is much debate about this. How many times have you met someone who says “Oh, I’m also a photographer,” or “We must have so much in common! That’s one of my hobbies.” – There’s a reason I shield my A (Artist) label from the threatening enclave of the public. You, I am certain, must also do this to from time to time. Protecting the concept no doubt.

    On top of that I ask, who says everything isn’t art? In the same breathe, you could argue that architecture isn’t art either. (I have a feeling you’d defend that one to the tooth and nail.) And in more vast, and less artistic terms, one could claim that not everything in the world relates to such concepts as the environment. I am not a religious person, and wouldn’t try if I had to, but one would be hard pressed to deny the inter-connectivity between all and the notion of one-ness. To be so categorical as to divide art based on James Joyce, neglects entire realms of the human experience and necessitate to justify and make sense of so much or in contrast, so little.

    It is with this I ask you – can art be a rational experience?

    • David Says:

      I think the coffee or the altitude has gone to your head. Your ‘livid’ response and personal name calling does not need any defense. Carrie you make me laugh. ha ha.

      • David Says:

        Ideas may be art in the ideator’s head (no one can ever be certain), but what is communicated or last in translation is the issue here dont you think?

  7. Carrie Perreault Says:

    I present your defense. You’ll probably appreciate the tone in the writing but I’m gonna stick with the first line of the first comment relating to this article, and I’m certain it was Warhol who declared that “art is what you can get away with”.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: