The Effects of Art
The oldest profession
We all know what the general belief is on the oldest profession, but I would have to say that art is older still. Cave drawings from thousands of years ago - before there was any system of money or exchange that we are aware of - prove that mankind has been taking what we see, hear and do, and creating something where nothing existed before. And while there is no proof of the existence of storytelling thousands of years ago, how can we deny that telling stories - a form of art itself - was not part of the purpose of these first works of art?
Through the ages of humanity, we have produced art in various formats, from the aforementioned paintings to today's digital representations: paintings, photographs, works of sound, works of literature, and even works of dance. For as far back as there is evidence of civilization, there is also evidence that art has been a part of our lives.
What is the Effect?
The effect of art can be dramatic. One person can see an image or listen to a piece of music and find a profound connection to it. Another person, looking at the same image, or hearing the same piece of music, could find it abhorrent and personally disturbing. Either effect can be considered a success, as the purpose of art is to inform others of how the artist perceives their world. Not everyone will agree with our perception, and not everyone will like what we do.
A researcher, Semir Zeki, exposed a number of subjects to various works of art while scanning their brains with an MRI. The results showed that works of art that were found to be pleasing stimulated an area of the brain that is known to be a pleasure center, while pictures of things that were ugly or made one angry or fearful stimulated an entirely different area of the brain.
How can we deny that art has an effect on us when it is proven by science? Not only this, but having recently watched a video of a performance on Britain's Got Talent, you can clearly see the audience members crying at the beauty and sadness of the story that was being told in the production of music, dance, and visual artistry (the video has since been taken down, but trust me, it was awesome!). The effect of this artistic interpretation of a story was tangible and beautiful.
What about Censorship?
Here is a sticky situation that I find a little tough to steer around. Censorship has been around as long as civilizations have had a leader of sorts to determine the rights and wrongs, and what behaviors are appropriate or inappropriate. If not a single leader, then a group has formed who deem something improper or a bad influence on the minds of the young.
I have a high degree of distaste for artistic censorship simply because it is an attempt to tell us what is art and what is morally objectionable. Every person has their own morals, and every family must determine how to teach what they feel is right. Simply because I disagree with the use of the "N" word in many modern day rap songs, does not mean that I will prevent my children or anyone else from hearing it. I also am not a fan of overtly exploitative videos and songs that objectify women and make money, cars, good-looking women in bikinis, and guns the object of every boy's affection. But my distaste for it does not mean that I should prevent anyone from seeing it. I will teach my daughter's to respect themselves and to demand respect from others, but I will not deny them the opportunity to make their own decisions about what they do or do not like.
Now, that is not to say that I will not filter what they see and hear until such a time as I feel they are ready for it. A degree of control is required where art becomes overtly sexual or depicting something that the young should not be exposed to until they are ready. But general censorship because a certain individual or group believes it to be objectionable is wrong in my opinion. Create a measure of control over who sees it based on such criteria as age - we have age limits on alcohol, tobacco, pornographic material and even voting, so this is not such a difficult stretch to follow, as in the case of music that has parental warnings, for example - and then it is up to the individual or family to decide if and when the particular piece of art is seen or heard.
Art is part of the Human Experience
Art is created from nothing, and is then presented from the imagination of the creator to those who would see it and appreciate it. It is part of who and what we are as a species. We see things, hear things, and think things, and then we present our perceptions of these things to others.
I see art as part of who we are as humans. If we did not have the ability to appreciate beauty in the mundane - a flower, the colored tapestry of a fly's eyes close up, a sunset, the sound of the rain on the rooftop - we would not have art to comfort us, challenge us, and make us think. Art is simply a representation of the mundane brought to a single point of clarity and focus, so that we may see the beauty in the everyday.
Now, go out and enjoy some art!
P.S. - the two images in this article are my personal creations using Adobe Illustrator. Maybe not great art, but my perception and my creation of art in my own small way. Enjoy!