The Infancy of Art – How to Instruct?

Somehow, after talking about how Art is still in its infancy – I saw this video from the Man himself.

Which led me to think – how does one really teach the idea that art is supposed to be communicative in its meaning rather than stuck to any technique or lame ideology? As in, how do you teach that Art is not just communicating about yourself, but has a general thrust that opens outwards beyond your own message – since the self is tailored by the world.

A term I picked up from Alex Sheremet was the difference between instructive art and great art. Instructive art is helpful because it teaches you due to how accessible it is – while not necessarily being great. On the other hand, not all great works of art are accessible. One example he gives is Heritage by Countee Cullen – because this poem is an extremely lyrical and simplistic sounding poem that is easy to process – but contains a large amount of depth to it. Getting into Countee Cullen places one on the road to perceiving others like Wallace Stevens or John Donne. In Art he calls Francis Bacon a more instructive artist than the complex Picasso.

How does one impart the idea that there are no rules – and that you can use whatever fits the mode of communication? Are there any works that are accessible enough to impart this while still containing something of a thrust that leads to the prospect of other works with great communicative intensity?

Quite frankly, of all the works that my small span of life has come into contact with so far – SCA-Ji Novels have been the most instructive as to the possibilities of the medium. This is because with a writer like SCA-Ji, despite neither being the most precise nor poetic writer, understands that the communicative gestalt rises above anything else – and he always makes sure to spell out his message clearly and unites all the other parts of the work in service of this message. He has grand ideas, and he violates genre all over the place, and he is fun, and he is still instructable because he is good at making large ideas simple. Of course, if I rate him away from my own biases, he is probably too ghetto-tized within the facets of the Otaku subculture, but his works uses the subculture as a foundation to imply an outwards thrust into life itself. In that way, I consider him the best Young Adult writer there ever is (and this is despite SubaHibi containing tons of fucked up NSFW shit) – and this is not a derogatory term (I’m not using it in the sense of how Western publishing industries uses it) – but merely to say that his works encapsulates that first step into the potential of art. It speaks to teen angst, budding sexuality, a love for the apocalyptic grotesque, a love for overwhelming extremes, a love for raw beauty, and a love for youthful vigor – while opening ways out of that mindset. It cherishes youth while providing the turn away. It is aware of its own artifice and celebrates that artifice – and the characters that populates his worlds are all archetypes and figures in a massive Platonic dialogue. And, the whole of Sakura no Uta in general is a refutation of artistic narrowness.

The trap comes when people take the content of those messages as an end rather than a beginning. For example, take the fact that people are keen to describe Sakura no Uta as a story that depicts/is daily life – when the daily life depicted in SnU is an idealized artificial form that skims the best bits – taken to an extreme through the use of techniques honed in Slice of Life works. This is no knock against Sakura no Uta – because SnU is aware of its own artifice but uses it in service of the communicative intensity. It’s similar to how the ‘daily life’ in a Yasujiro Ozu film might be too slow and sparse, or the ‘daily life’ in a Scorcese/Cassavetes film might be too hyperactive – but it still commentates something on life itself because it condenses rather than misrepresents. Art is communication in how it translates reality to service its message – and Sakura no Uta’s representation of a beautiful daily life is a translation of reality no different from Ozu’s solemn/elegiac daily life.

But it is important not to forget that it is artistry that is behind Sakura no Uta – that is – the bits and pieces of reality (human reality, which includes its ideals, myths, and simulations – and not just material reality) arranged in a specific format to ground the communicative thrust of the work. And SCA-Ji’s work is instructive because it communicates the question while providing several outs for the human mind to cling onto with no definite answer. Yet, beyond the mere message – it imparts this through artistic intuition – the ‘how’ and not the ‘what’ – and this is why the work as a whole is a greater criticism of artistic narrowness than the individual moments where it directly states those messages.

After experiencing Sakura no Uta, there might be those who are wondering what the next step is. Where is that artist that acknowledges that Art is both an intersection of the human and the world – and seeks to communicate both Heaven and Earth? That cherishes daily life while standing firm with an eye to the higher vision? Do I really need to answer that question…?

(Reminds you of a certain type of philosophy doesn’t it?)