When Art Tries to Be Art

When art tries to be art it fails and offends.  Novels should be a good story, film should be good drama, music should be rhythmic and melodious, poetry should be the marriage of sound and sense, paintings should be about space, figure, and form, and beauty is important, as is passion in all this.

I saw a movie that began with a woman walking in a graveyard, in the autumn.  “Here we go,” I thought.  Where could the movie go from there?  As the story progressed, it kept cutting back to the woman walking in the graveyard.  Something about death intruding into a quite ordinary story.  Then there are films with odd camera angles.  An odd camera angle that adds to the dramatic tension works.  But there are too many films that show odd angles for their own sake, under the mistaken assumption that those camera angles make a mediocre movie into art.

I’ve heard musicians who add performance art into their songs, so that they will be artistic.  I saw a singer wrap herself in a blanket with an image of the whole world on it, as she bowed.  I wasn’t sure of her point, but I was sure she was trying to be artistic.

I’ve read poets who use precious words, poetic words, so that they would be making poetry.  One such word is gossamer.

I saw an artwork that was a spiral cut of paper with great works of art reproduced on it.  Something about art being about art.

A good story will be art.  A good poem doesn’t need poetic words to be art.  A riveting movie will be art.  A song that touches the soul and bespeaks humanity’s pain, joy, and passion will be art.  A painting you can’t take your eyes off will be art.  Art doesn’t need to try to be art.

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