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Ars Gratia Artis - The Ex-Communicator

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September 20th, 2010


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10:34 am - Ars Gratia Artis
I took my daughter to University this weekend. What a wrench to leave her there. She's brave and tough, so I know she will be OK. My son starts next weekend, but he has gone to my ex's second home on the Jurassic Coast for a week with his girlfriend, so effectively the absence of children has begun already for me. After 22 years I don't have my offspring in the house with me. After 22 years of having the pattern in my head that I must keep track of them, am responsible for them, I turn on a sixpence, to a new function.

At a time like this, with the children leaving and my redundancy looming, I find myself thinking, what is the function of art? I am finding in this confusing time that my emotional reaction to drama and poetry is more intense than I have experienced for many years. Sometimes it crashes through me like a wave.

Does this bring anything to my life, except a relief from it? Does it enhance my power or fitness? Or does it simply ameliorate the pain that is an unwanted secondary effect of being an intelligent animal? I'm talking about its function for humans in general here, not just for me. Does the art that human beings make and consume have any benefits at all, apart from soothing the same feelings that give rise to it? A closed system?

Is art some kind of paracetamol of the soul, which helps us to endure, or more like a penicillin that heals, or even a performance-enhancing drug? I'm hoping it's the mental equivalent of steroids. Yes, I will be the Arnold Schwarzenegger of aesthetics: over-pumped.

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Comments:


[User Picture]
From:andrewducker
Date:September 20th, 2010 10:20 am (UTC)
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Art can make us think, and it can inspire feelings.

If you value those two things then I'd say that it has benefits :->
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From:communicator
Date:September 20th, 2010 10:46 am (UTC)
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I wonder whether feeling is an epiphenomenon. In which case art may be just the management of a waste product. I am trying to express myself as revoltingly as possible.
[User Picture]
From:andrewducker
Date:September 20th, 2010 10:52 am (UTC)
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What phenomenon would feeling be an epiphenomenon of?

My current working theory is that feelings are how we communicate with ourselves, and let our "intellectual" self know what our "emotional" self wants.
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From:communicator
Date:September 20th, 2010 11:07 am (UTC)
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An epiphenonemon of human information processing. The human mind considered as a black box, the inputs go in, the functional outputs emerge - what goes on inside the box is irrelevant. Internal systems which enable these functions. But like an inefficient machine the mind generates waste heat, which much somehow be dispersed.

Not sure there is a dichotomy between thought and emotion though.
[User Picture]
From:andrewducker
Date:September 20th, 2010 11:21 am (UTC)
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Thought is both intellectual and emotional, so I wouldn't say that there was a dichotomy between thought and emotion ;->

And emotion is _vital_ to human (and animal) life. It tells you what you want. If we never had wants then we wouldn't ever do anything.
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From:hafren
Date:September 20th, 2010 11:37 am (UTC)
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I realise this is an awfully controversial view, but I think its primary function is to entertain. It can also be used to achieve other things, but if it doesn't get bums on seats and keep them there first, it will achieve nothing.
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From:communicator
Date:September 20th, 2010 12:02 pm (UTC)
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I have been reading this view a lot recently, which is what I am addressing really. If the purpose of the emotion is to soothe or stimulate the emotion, in some endless futile cycle.

Actually since typing this I am watching Mad Men and really am very entertained and feeling better. I'm just replying from my previous position.
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From:iainjcoleman
Date:September 20th, 2010 02:08 pm (UTC)
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I tend to think of art as a kind of telepathy. There is this complex of feelings, ideas, insights and fears inside my head that I cannot reduce to a set of clear declarative statements, so instead I package them all up in this structure - a story, a picture, a performance - in order to transmit them from my brain to yours. This transmission is lossy and unreliable, but it's the best I can do until proper telepathy comes along.
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From:communicator
Date:September 20th, 2010 03:56 pm (UTC)
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Yes. To which I would add that the reconstruction at the other end may be like cooking a cake from a recipe - a lot of the creative effort is done by the person who receives the package, and makes a new artefact.

Lately I have been feeling such intense reaction to other people's writing, and it feels very meaningful, but part of me is saying 'What are you wasting your time with that for? This butters no parsnips.'
[User Picture]
From:iainjcoleman
Date:September 20th, 2010 04:38 pm (UTC)
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"Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time" - Bertrand Russell

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