Monday, February 7, 2011

Actors, Writers and Other Whores: The Impersonal Intimacy of Art*

I have a new love affair nearly every single night.

Cuddled on the sofa with my husband of close to a dozen years, we watch as heroes and heroines of every genre are meted out their nightly dose of conflict. There are charming rogues, altruistic champions, shy-but-sensitive soulmates, and so forth. With the press of a button,** we can experience vicariously, not just their fictional lives, but only the most interesting and exciting moments thereof. We see these characters at their most heroic, most villainous, most vulnerable, and most fascinating. They have witty conversations that progress dramatically to significant conclusions. Their every word and gesture is filled with meaningful nuance. They are physically beautiful. Even characters we're told are “ugly” are more attractive and appealing than the truly average person.*** Their clothes are always vaguely coordinated with everyone and everything around them. They always manage to stand in the most flattering light. They are never dull.

I fall in love nearly every time I watch a film, see a play, attend a concert, go to a gallery or read a book.

Artists have to love what they create. When the art is effective, it can inspire that same love in the person experiencing it. The audience and the artist are then connected by the mutual love of this third thing: the art. The relationship between artist and audience is less of a love affair than a well-functioning love triangle.

A relationship exists between the artist and audience that is, at the same time, very intimate and entirely impersonal. Artists generally create their works with the idea (hope) that there will be an audience. In that way, with a few notable exceptions, every work of art you experience was, in fact, created for you. However, it was not created specifically or only for you as an individual. 

The audience is not passive in this relationship. Each individual experiences art through the filter of their own aesthetic (aka Yum). Experiencing a work of art teaches you less about the artist as a person than about yourself in that moment – how you perceive it and react to those perceptions.

Art, in it's many forms, is a conversation that takes place independent of time and space. It is emotion without consequence, experience without risk. It is the opportunity to sample the Yum of another, compare it to and let it influence your own.

Today's exercise: Read a book, watch a film, go to a concert, listen to an album - have a threesome with your favorite artist.  

Next: Some thoughts on Bonding Day, February 14.      

*I have no intention of trying to define “art” anymore than I intend to attempt to define “quality” or “pornography.” What I consider “art house” another might call a “stag film.” Where I see crudely rendered animation, others may see biting social commentary. It is a complex matter of perception best left to overly caffeinated grad students and their masters theses. Therefore, for the purposes of this meditation, please feel free to use the definition of “art” that best suits your Yum.

**OK, several buttons on a combination of different remote controls and/or game box controlers.

***Consider the average crowd at your local discount chain.


  1. Mmmmm...Colin Firth and I got together this week and it was heavenly. ;) The King's Speech is FANTASTIC. If you haven't seen it, go. NOW.