There are various aspects to art, that cover what’s aesthetical, human, or even moral (there currently is a photography exhibit in a museum in Toulouse which subject is ‘autopsy’, and you can see all the details and all the steps of someone carrying an autopsy).
Art doesn’t contribute to a materialistic well being, or to any useful purpose to make the world a better place. Then why, since the beginning of time, is the human obsessed with leaving artistic traces of his presence, even in the worst events that someone could go through (like Picasso and his Guernica)?
1. What is the use of art ?
Well some will say that art is producing beauty. Beauty, being it’s end, doesn’t have any other purpose than “being”. It’s something free, it doesn’t have any other use by itself. Therefore the only justification to art would be to produce this beauty. It’s a luxury, totally unnecessary, and yet that man couldn’t do without to progress.
Kant say that the “beautiful is the object of uninterested and free satisfaction”.
Some artistic work are known by a lot of people. Like for example the Joconde. What’s the thing about that painting that makes it so special to so many people? What is artistic in that? Mona Lisa was not particularly beautiful, and the technique used by Da Vinci is not earth shattering.. I’m not convinced someone living in the center of Africa would have the same fascination for that work. Appreciating art may then be a question of culture.
Bourdieu said that our relationship with art is determined by our social standards .Art would be for some people a way to assess their social difference from the “mass”. In that regard, he opposes his ideas to the ones of Kant, who viewed art as something universal. Yet, he did make a different between what’s likable and what’s beautiful. Some artwork can please without being beautiful, and the opposite is true as well.
In the time the Joconde was painted, art was used as a photography would be today, in a way. Kings were given paintings of women to chose between them their future life. In that regard, art was necessary. But how necessary?
2. Is art necessary?
Art is not totally free, since it expresses the essence to life. A life is not complete without some art in it.
One of the functions of art is to go through centuries, and bring a testimony of the past. “art is all the images that human creation has opposed to time” (De Heredia).
Therefore art becomes a way to communicate through culture, language and land. It’s because men are free that they can create the world they want. For the person who creates art, just like the person who observes it, art is more than just artwork, it’s a piece of freedom.
Remy de Gourmont said “without love, there is no art anymore”. It’s that need to love that pushes us to create something beautiful. I think all artists are a little idealistic in trying to put in any realisation so much. The need to love though, is very much necessary…
3. Art as a way to see the world differently.
As explained by Shopenhauer, “the artist lends us his eyes to look the world”. We see things beautiful only when we have learned to see them that way. Nature can be terrifying or beautiful, depending on the eyes of the one who’s looking at it.
Have you ever noticed how only tourists appreciate the beauty of the town you live in, and actually enjoy visiting it? It’s pretty much the same thing. Most of us don’t pay attention to the things we consider normal.
We more and more only see nature through art. Nature has become picturesque in the sense that it has become the subject of a painting, or a song, a poem… Art doesn’t reproduce what’s visible, it makes it visible. (Paul Klée)
The moral issue of art is harder to discuss. Is an autopsy artistic? Is it moral? Is it ethical? Art sometimes goes against the conventions, and yet it can be considered moral, as a way to prepare what’s going to be acceptable in the future, but never was in the past (even a close past).
Art is a way to raise human behaviour, if you can go beyond some moral.
It’s a path to a different knowledge.
Is art therefore something necessary, and at the same level to anyone?
Art covers painting, writing, drawing, playing music. As it’s something that’s been found in every culture since we’ve been able to trace them back, it certainly has a high value to everyone.
However, and since it can covers so many aspects of life, it’s approached in a different way, not only by every culture, but by every social level, and even by every individual.