Nothing perhaps sums up the true purpose of art as eloquently as this essay on ONV Kurup. Says the author:
” The poet always strives to empower poetry, enabling it to attend to the spiritual needs of the succeeding generations of sensitive souls. For this, he takes special care to ensure that each of his poems is an inquiry into new realms of aesthetic experience.”
The author quotes ONV:
“ Humanity is the same everywhere, bonded together by common dreams, joy, grief and suffering. We live life intensely, feeling everything intensely. Everything that happens around is a poet’s concern. We sleep with a nightmare hovering above us every night. The felling of a tree or a bomb explosion or a rape, be it of a woman or of Mother Earth, causes a commotion, an upheaval in my mind. As I see it, my job is to build a bridge that would link this shore of pain, strife and thralldom to that other one of freedom…. If my song can create some ripple, somewhere, I will feel proud, honoured and privileged.”
In the past, this was the primary purpose of art and an artist’s primary responsibility was towards sustaining this purpose. Thanks to the low profile of media back then, with technology a safe distance away, an artist had his space- a space that is vital to create art. I think of my favourite authors, film makers and musicians- they were not celebrities; they were one among us. They were our voices- the voices of our exhilaration, angst and pain. In their silence and solitude, they created magic from the richness of human experience. Through their art, they helped us see the immense beauty in our own souls…the worth in our own selves…the meaning in all our struggles. Their creation was uninfluenced by the superfluous tastes of a diverse audience. They created from the core of humanity so that each one of us could read our own stories in their works of art. At the end, their work lifted us in spirit and aspired towards the creation of a better world- a world erected on principles of humanity.
Emotions and experiences are too deep for instant translation. Like fruits that need time to ripen, emotions need time- to percolate deep, to mature, and to brim. Only then does true art flow out.
The tragedy of the modern world is that art has been hit by technology, media and market. The pressure to create number/quantity drowns the true purpose of art.
Today, we cater to an infinite and diverse audience, on a day to day ( or even minute to minute) basis. It is our artistic space that we lose in the process, for we let the audience influence us in our creation, corrupting its originality, diluting its aesthetics and depth. There is the unconscious urge within us to maintain a certain pace of creation, and derive instant pleasure with the responses we obtain. We do not wait to feel and assimilate from life. We create from the intensity of our fleeting emotions. We are in a hurry to shift from one emotion to the next, without allowing a primary emotion to percolate, build up, consolidate and mature. And so, we fail in our primary responsibility as an artist, without realizing it. We create art that can easily be substituted and that will fade with time. Not art that speaks across time and space.
The artist has also finally entered the domain of goal-directed behaviour, which ruins the cause of art and dilutes standards. With the ocean of work that is launched in the name of art ( everybody is a writer or photographer or some sort of artist today!), the true artist has a tough job swimming across this ocean to even get his art noticed. And so, the artist is lost in the pursuit for validation of his work.
With an audience that no longer has the time or space to read at length, or process depth, the artist’s struggle is enormous, for he is torn between the need to remain true to his instinct and to reach out.
Also, within the artist community, there is none of the support/encouragement that was the norm in the past. An artist in those days had the goodness and ability to recognize the creative caliber of a fellow human being…to support and encourage him…to mentor him and propel him towards his artistic domain. But the artists of today have no interest in fellow-artists (save for vested interests). The commitment is no longer to the cause of art, but to the self-directed outcome of it. Established artists do nothing about this, for they too invest their time/energy in endeavours that ‘enrich’ their own lives- an enrichment distant from all humanitarian causes.
Many ask- ‘So what?’
To which I shall quote my friend:
“We live as if trapped inside a Sunday supplement: obsessed with fame, fashion and the three dreary staples of middle class conversation: recipes, renovations and partying at resorts. Anything but the topic that demands our real attention!”