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Ars Non Gratia Artis - Art NOT For Art's Sake

I have been unhappy with Ars Gratia Artis for a long time - art for art's sake. WTF is that supposed to mean, anyway? It is at best a step stone to a more grown up understanding of art in the greater scheme of things, both intrapersonally as well as interpersonally. At worst, it becomes a crazy labyrinth that causes havoc for the individuals and societies who adopt this position.

So let's not discuss here what art is, I have already done this at length. 

Let's talk instead about what art does.

Or, to be more precise, *what artists do.*

Artists - and the modality in which they work is quite irrelevant, so this goes for story tellers, writers, symbol makers, sculptors, musicians, the lot) - create change.

They are the ones who bring in the new ideas upon which then later on, new religions, philosophies, and "ways to look at the world" are founded.

Artists are the magicians who magic human socieites into being.

The real artists, that would be.

Any person who involves themselves in becoming a real artist, to step into that natural birthright of every human being, therefore likewise, becomes this fountain, this catalyst who can and does change the world with every work of art.

And when that happens, you gain enormous power - plus some considerable responsibility.

I explained this earlier today on my art group on Facebook:

I am fascinated by ... not sure how to explain this, perhaps it's the lack of intention when it comes to make art objects? ARTefacts? Why are you doing this painting? What is it supposed to accomplish when it's done? What was the purpose when you set out to make this object?

It's strange. It's like there's a major disconnect between the idea to make an art object, an artefact, the process of making it, and what happens after it's been made.

Just playing with colours and your hands and eyes and imagination, that's fun and I guess that's the idea of "ars gratia artis" but without the guiding intelligence and the whole deal, what's the point?

Personal development?

If so, why not then take control of that and say, "I'm going to do art now for personal development. I'm going to heal/learn/grow/expand in the process and I'm going to end up with an artefact that ..."

This may sound both alarming and terrible to the ars gratia artist fans, but what that does is to structurally exclude a whole lot of things that can really f**k up your art, artistic processes, outcomes, sanity, in the end ...

It excludes trying to please a long dead art teacher. It excludes trying to impress your mother, your wife, your users. It excludes strange hopes that one day, a rich man will come to your house and demand that the cupboard under the stairs be opened where you keep all your done art so he can admire it and buy it all on the spot.

Having a set up, some kind of purpose for the entire process including its final outcome creates a space of freedom from all sorts of crazy things that could otherwise intrude.

What also comes into this so strongly for me is the responsibility the artist has or should have for what they are producing. There seems to be none of that at all. In literature, these days you can't write certain stories because it is known that people will actually read it and interact with the material, learn from it, may change their behaviour because of it.

Again, the ars gratia artis folk will scream and shout but really!

Let's think about the whole process from start to beginning.

So, your inner artist wants you to make a movie about shooting up a high school. With instructions on how to do that as we go along. From the perspective of the guys who will be doing the shooting.

And you're not responsible for some teenager seeing that, and following your lead?

Is that what you wanted to accomplish? Did you want all the bullied kids to rise up, pick up automatic weapons and shoot their schools up? Was that your purpose all along?

"I'm just doing art. What other people do with that is not my business."

See and I don't believe in that.

I believe that artists, authors, architects *should* absolutely take responsibility for their art. From conception to the final outcomes. I'm not saying that you can control what happens. Someone might take my "Prosperity Fish" and use it for the flag for some crazy vegetarian revolution where they shoot everyone in the head who's ever eaten a burger.

But I can honestly say that, hand on my heart, I created the Prosperity Fish in all good faith and tried to do something good, put something good into the world, something positive, something happy.

Bringing conscious focus back to the purpose of (your) art, every single piece, always, and some awareness of what it's for, where it's going to, the changes it is meant to affect in the hard, it's ... helpful.

It brings all the decisions that are being made together and excludes all manner of "static." It can't help but create artefacts of power and purpose. Magical artefacts. And then we're back where we should be - with art and magic being one and the same.

The last thing I would like to add is that when there is a purpose to the whole process, learning craft components (such as perspective in drawing, or how to mix certain plastics correct) becomes a natural part of the process, and naturally subordinated to the entire purpose.

Lifts the learning potential both in form as well as function.

Just a thought or two for Sunday ...


Art does have a purpose.

It has a structural purpose for the people who engage in it, and its effects has a structural purpose which expands in ever widening spirals from e ARTefact that was created, outwards, both through time and through space.

Art is what makes human beings human beings. It's magical, it's quite something.

But it also, doesn't exist.

There is no such thing as "art" - there are only people who *do art.* It's a behaviour, something we *do.* It's a typical example of a nominalisation, a process verb turned into a noun, and you can't put it into a wheelbarrow.

Unlike other such nominalisations, such as "communication" which still has its verb form to which we may return, and start to wonder how I communcate with you, and you with me, "art" doesn't have a verb any longer.

Why don't we bring it back?

We can be painting, composing, sculpting, singing - we can be arting.

I arted for over 6 hours last night - what did you do?

Try the word, play with it. Get over the fact that arted rhymes with farted. 

You can of course make an entity out of the non-existent "art" that you are supposed to do for its own non-existent sake, and do some interesting entity work with it, and your own personal relationship with it.

I think artists should do stuff like that. So they know what an artist is and does, and have some form of control over what they want to leave behind marked in the sands of time forever.

Me, I'd say do art with a purpose.

Put your volition behind it.

Decide what you want to make, and make it so.

What you produce is your gift to the world, to humanity.

It all goes into the Akashic records and will be seen by many more than you would ever know.

Make it something amazing.


Silvia Hartmann

Author, Infinite Creativity

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