Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Hey You!

Today, I'd like to make some observations on the nature of art. Yesterday's post was a tad sentimental, so I don't want people to think I've gone soft, and am no longer an asshole, so this is a good rant.

I believe everybody - and I mean every freaking last stinking one of us - should be involved in some form of artistic creation. This could be writing, painting, sculpture, dance, improv, acting, architectural design, whatever. The form the art takes is of import only to the individual practising said art. The important thing is that we are each actively involved in the creative process.

Kurt Vonnegut said it best when he said "The primary benefit of practicing any art, whether well or badly, is that it enables one's soul to grow". Art is a way for us to expressing the inexpressible, of giving form and substance to that within us which cannot be expressed in any other way. Every human being - this means you! - has an expressive soul, one that needs to be explored and nurtured, and artistic creation is the best way to do this.

Children are all born with the intrinsic ability to express themselves artisticly. As children, we draw, we colour, we paint with our fingers. We do so because their is joy in creation. We do so because we lack the ability to express our inner selves in any other way. We dance when we want to, and we don't give a shit if anyone laughs at us because we look silly. We fully and completely embrace artistic expression as a facet of our being.

And then we go to school. Schools, obstensibly, are designed to instruct us, to nurture our strengths and strengthen our weaknesses. They tell us that school is designed to help make us whole and complete human beings, who are able to function within society.

Grade "A" pure fucking anus dribblings.

The average school cirriculum is designed to squash independant thought; to take interesting and unique individuals and make them indistiguishable from the vegetative mass sitting at the next desk. If you talk out of turn, you are punished. If you do things differently from your classmates, you are mocked. Schools themselves are designed to churn out the mediocre, colourless and pedestrian by-products they refer to as "Graduates".

So lets take a look at our artistic and clever little children as they enter the public school system. Kindergarten is pretty fun. We paint, we drink milk, we nap. Then we start hitting grade one. All of a sudden, our artistic works are now viewed critically. We are told what to draw, what to paint, what to make. Instead of being able to express your inner soul, you are told that today, we are all going to paint houses. And God help you if you're not in the mood to paint a house.

We are told that clouds must all be one shape. Yes, that one is a particularly bitter self reference from my own child hood. In grade 2, I was once given a C- on a painting because my clouds were thin and stringy, instead of fat and fluffy. Because all clouds are flat and fluffy, don'tcha know. The only thing that was fat and fluffy was that stupid fucking cunt of an art teacher.

Why do grade schools even grade art at all? How can we realistically expect that there be an absolute scale of artistic worth? What entitles a teacher to tell one child that their rendition of a doggy and a kitty is better than someone else's? Absoutely fucking nothing. There is absolutely no reason or justification that can be provided for grading art.

So most children lose their love of the arts in grade school. Even music. I love to sing, and I always have. But by grade six, I hated singing. Why? Because our douchebag music teacher (Mr. Henderson of Memorial Public School in Stoney Creek, Ontario, if you happen to be reading this, your are a myopic, dwarfish, destroyer of souls, you ignorat plebeian) forced us to sing songs that he liked.

Songs like "Someone's in the motherfucking Kitchen with Dinah". Fuck Dinah, fuck her kitchen, and fuck the nameless someone who likes to hang around kitchens. Songs like "Drill, Ye Tarriers, Drill". What 11-year old gives a rats ass about an 18th century coal miner?

I once asked my teacher why we couldn't sing songs we liked, songs that were popular on the radio. He told me to shut up. Nice, logical, intelligent reasoning there, Mr. Henderson. You ass.

Here's another fun example. Before entering school, my nephew Clayton was a genius with sidewalk chalk. He would create these large, complex patterns, with swirls and whorls that are difficult to describe. All I know was, they were beautiful. Whenever he drew with crayons, he would create the same complex and lovely patterns.

When he entered public school, the teachers told him to draw a clown. Clayton didn't want to draw a clown. He liked to draw swirls and patterns, not things. The teachers used peer pressure on him. All the other kids are drawing clowns, Clayton, why are you being difficult? They brow beat him and pressured him so much that by the end of kindergarten, he refused to draw at all. He's never picked up a piece of sidwalk chalk since.

A wonderful and real talent was squashed by an ignorant and pathetic twat masquerading as a caring instructor. Why? Because she had to force the kids to draw what she wanted them to, rather than allowing them to express themselves. That, to me, is criminal.

So, we are born artists, and then our schooling squeezes that artistry out of us. Sure, some of us thrive in this environment. These individuals are either (a) so incredibly talented that even the teachers cannot squash their skill, or (b) sycophants who suck up to the teachers and therefore gain their praise, or (c) very popular.

After we lose the ability to create ourselves, we seem to lose the ability to objectively evaluate art. Rather than deciding for ourselves what is good or bad, we let the popular opinion sway our decisions. If a popular girl paints a mediocre painting, and an unpopular girl paints a good painting, who do you think is going to win the student-voting art competition? That's right.

Even after school, most art competitions are decided by nepotism and popularity. In the town of Gore Bay, for instance, the annual art competion is regularly won by the mayor's wife. In years where she comes in second, her daughter usually wins. Quel coincidence.

Take a look at plays on Broadway. The most difficult shows to get tickets for are the ones that are most popular. People want to see the newest and most popular show, and will pay ridiculous amounts (sometimes in excess of $800.00 for good seats), just so they can go to work the next day and tell their coworkers that they have seen the latest popular play. Its more about status than the actual play itself.

Now, I realize that there are a lot of people out there who practice art clearly because they enjoy doing so. If you are one of them, then good for you. If you are not, I honestly and sincerely urge you to do something. Anything artistic. Grab a pencil and draw, grab a paintbrush and paint, grab a typewriter and write. Dance, sing, sculpt ... anything!

You know you want to! There's something in you dying to be expressed, but you keep putting it off. You're afraid that if you get up and sing karaoke, people will laugh at you. You're afraid that if you write a story, no one will read it. You're afraid that if you paint a picture, no one will like it.

Stop thinking like that! When you create, create for yourself! Create because it expresses who you are. If other people don't like your creations, they can go fuck themselves.


Bernie said...

Ah, glory be to the whatever you call your higher power....Ash is back!

BStrong said...

Good rant Ash. As a parent I am always excited to see the projects that my kids bring home from school. Amanda is still home, but Elle is in kindergarten and James is in Nursery. James’ art projects are very fluid and creative, while Elle’s are becoming more defined and ordinary, proving your theory. So that are kids are able to fully express themselves through art, we encourage them to take on projects at home where they won’t be influenced by their teachers. As for me, I need to pick my guitar up again. Maybe I’ll teach myself how to River Dance:)


Rach said...

When I make up songs about my Wiener dog to the tune of the theme of the Spider Man cartoon, is that art?

kate.d. said...

right on.

that's all i can say.