“ART … Progress or Stagnation?”

  “Don’t play what’s there – play what’s not there”                                       Mile Davis

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Just recently I talked with a usually open-minded and smart person, but he said: “If I don’t get it / don’t understand it, it’s not art to me. Art to me is only what I like and what I understand”

Very disturbing … to say the least. It is similar to ridiculous postmodern claims that ‘no tree in the forest falls unless it is observed’ … ‘if I can’t see the moon it does not exist’ or ‘there is no truth unless it’s beneficial to me or to humanity’.

As much as truth must always be reason-and fact-based, cannot be manipulated and must be accepted, above all personal and human interests, and can never be cherry-picked and tailored to your liking … the role and purpose of art is equally never to please YOU and ANYONE’s level of intellect. It emerges wherever the artist is taken in play and imagination, regardless if YOU, or as a matter of fact, anyone, understands or likes it. Furthermore, art demands effort and work, from both, maker and listener/viewer, to be understood … and to be enjoyed. There is no such thing as “inspiration” from above … art is hard work and experimentation, willingness to make mistakes. Art is not about delivering the expected, to the ones who want to lay back and consume. It’s about the unexpected and demands effort. And, as soon as it’s understood … it ceased to be interesting. One always looks for more complex forms, new challenges, visual or musical … anything.

That’s why some evolve from Black Sabbath to Chopin, from Muddy Waters to Scofield, from Bateman to Pollock, from dumb novels to philosophy, from Kraft Dinner to French Cuisine, from the burning bush to the Hubble Telescope, from supernatural woo-woo to reason and science … to humanity … well … and some don’t.

Once you figure something out it becomes boring … but not for everyone, it seems …
It’s called the “Comfort in Familiarity” … when some only feel save when exposed exclusively to what they already know … when some interact only with like-minded people in fear of possible challenge and criticism … when clinging to safe strategies that worked for them in the past, in fear of failure. It’s the definition of conservatism and small-mindedness. As truth, art is NOT what you want it to be … it is, and should be, surprising, kick you in the butt … never lulling and pleasing.

Are you over 20 and, e.g. still listen to Rock or Metal? … are you 60 and still worship Carlos Castaneda and Carlos Santana? You missed the train. It’s called stagnation. If you haven’t moved on to e.g. contemporary jazz and classical … if you are not taking the challenge, or at least try to understand and therefore enjoy e.g. counterpoint and fugue or expressionism, you are already old and conservative. Progress is natural and the reason why we don’t live in caves anymore.

We moved on from children’s stories for 5-year-olds to real literature and philosophy. We moved on from Corn Flakes, Kraft Dinner and Pepsi to tasteful, sophisticated French Cuisine and fine wines … you would think … not everybody though, it seems. Challenge, experimentation, learning and no fear of making mistakes is the basis of art, of all progress and brings the greatest reward and joy. Learning 3 chords on the guitar when you were 14 and now, 30-40 years later, without any progress, claiming to have “written” 250 songs, all of which are completely identical musically, consisting of the same, plagiarized C,F,G stereotype … only with exchanged words … well … is incompetent, delusional, is a hybrid of ignorance and arrogance, is cheating or lazy at best … and is an insult to the art form of music … it’s being a fossil … for a long time.

Art loves the Anarchist … not the conformist. Art loves the Iconoclast … not the mindless worshipper. Interesting, exciting, rewarding and the source of greatest pleasure is … what you don’t know! … something to be discovered!


Klaus Rossler © copyright

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