See The Most Glorious of Lies






















Another example is being in love


This, of course, is not a sufficient definition of art


The Opposite of Explanation

Several people have been on to me about my claim that art consists in making sense. I agree the idea needs some clarification. Maybe the best way to put it is like this.

In one of its meanings 'making sense' is equivalent to 'comprhension'. According to this, the world is a coherent place of which we are profoundly ignorant. Some people, call them teachers or discoverers, see or find some aspect of this coherence and communicate it to us. They explain things. The cloud of ignorance is dispelled. Whatever it is that is explained now makes sense to us. This is what I would call a scientific or educative attitude. It has nothing to do with art.

To the artist, in my view, the world is an incoherent place. The process of creation is not about comprehension or a growing sphere of illumination that gradually encompasses more and more of reality. The coherence that is art is not inherent in the world but human-made out of the chaotic stuff of experience. We might say it is made in defiance of reality. This leads to another kind of understanding; one that is radically different from the comprehension that arises from explanation. It might even be thought of as anti-explanation. Art is 'making sense' in the literal meaning of 'making' - creating something that was not there before.

Why making sense, though? Why not making models or pictures or impressions? The point here is that making an object means nothing in and of itself. Art involves engagement with that object and it is the engagement, either as creator or as apprehendor, that gives rise to the experience of fulfillment or enrichment or awareness or energised potential that validates us and makes us most alive. This is the sense of the sense that we make.

Personally, I am more interested in the creation than the apprehension or, to be more exact, I care more about myself as creator than apprehendor. For most writers and artists I know creating something involves some form of compulsion by which the creator becomes deeply engaged in the process to the point of being lost in it. This experience is an example of the psychological paradox that you are most alive when you are least conscious of yourself. The experience is not, of course, exclusive to the artist. It may arise in any activity that involves mental commitment and concentration and skill. What makes art different is that there is no other purpose to the creation than the thing itself. We are making sense not pots and pans.

20 November 2008

Isn't he cute?



© Chris Else 2008