The relationship between art and commerce is so fraught, how on earth can you value art in monetary terms? Yet we do. What is the real value of art? What does it do? What is its purpose and what does it mean? Thank you, Jeanette Winterson, for exploring and articulating the ideas below (edited from her speech: http://www.phf.org.uk/news/jeanette-wintersons-keynote-speech-awards-for-artists-2015/ )
.....We sense that life has an inside as well as an outside—that our imagination, dreams, ideas, are all invisible until we give them some visible form. We create so that other people can see the invisible. Music begins in the silent space of the mind but we invented instruments so that what is in my mind can reach your ears and your heart. Yes, always the heart. Art is nothing if we can’t feel it.The strange experience we call art is how we bridge the gap between the material and the non-material. Between the everyday life of busyness and doing, and the inner life, so personal, so necessary, so hard to place or find space for in the 24/7 mania of competition and failure.
This struggle between what is seen and what is invisible—between the 3D world of sense-experience and the anti-matter world of what cannot be proved empirically, is the never resolved, un-resolvable struggle that art throws in our faces. That art tries to solve by revealing in forms we can manage—shapes, colours, sounds, light—the overwhelming totality of consciousness. We know we only use a tiny percentage of our brains; neuro-science is just beginning to understand how vast and weird consciousness is. The composer Sir John Tavener talked about this vast consciousness of ours and tried to reveal it through his music. But artists understand and articulate the situation in different ways. So many ways. None right or wrong; all clues towards a bigger life.
Art is energy. That’s why contact with art makes us feel better. Art isn’t some Sunday afternoon pursuit invented by the middle classes with leisure and money. Painting happened on cave walls. Music and story-telling happened round small fires in dark woods. Listen, a woman is singing. Look, a man has left a carving. Walk 20 miles to an unheated room to hear a quartet.... Art is democratic. For everybody.
And people say, ‘Art doesn’t feed the hungry or stop wars. Art doesn’t build hospitals’. It’s a matter of priorities.
Yes it is. The acute problems of our world—war, poverty, mental illness, social injustice—are symptoms of the chronic problem of our values. We value profit over people. It really is as simple as that.
But art—no matter how much it sells for—no matter how it is co-opted by the rich as a status symbol—is always and everywhere about the human condition. The Who Am I? What am I? And always about the essential creativity of human beings.
The Greeks had a word for it --Temenos, a sacred space perhaps a spring or a well or a grove—where you could meet the god. This temenos was a virtual space as well as a physical space; you could inhabit it in your mind. It became a meditative space.
Art is that meditative space. That temenos. Sometimes as an object—but essentially as an experience. You can buy it, but actually it is what can’t be bought. It is outside of the circle of getting and spending.
Many thanks to 'essay writer' for sharing her thoughts on Jeanette's article. (see comment below)