by Beatrice Braciamore
To the artists,
While I am aware that the title might be melodramatic, I hope after reading a few lines of this personal take on love and art it will cease to seem as tragic.
With this article, I wish nothing more but to pose some questions about the role art holds in the lives we find ourselves in.
To avoid possible misunderstandings about what I mean by “art” and “poetry” I will try to explain the personal meaning I ascribe to each. The concepts are so deeply ingrained into my daily life that it feels limiting to define them by mere words, but still, I’ll try to hand you something akin to the declaration of my (current) poetics.
What is art?
To me, Art is the product born from the attempt to create a summary of the retrospective view the artist has on reality. This could easily lead to overthinking, but we’ll talk about this later.
In so far that it is a conscious retrospective of one’s own life, anything can be art, and anyone can be an artist. In fact, we all must be artists as art is the only way to give meaning to our surroundings.
Poetry is then defined as the art wherein the product of the retrospective thought is a thought itself, put into words. I think at least once in our lives we have all been poets, trying to find the exact words, beautiful and structured, to describe emotions we want to keep close and eventually relieve.
From hereon on I will start utilizing poetic liberties, including the use of “artist” and “poet” as synonyms, because what I really care about uncovering here is not the product of art, but the process underlying, that is common to all artists.
But then how can artists live?
If art directly derives from analyzing life in search of some kind of form, a definition, almost closure with it, then how can the artist in us live without the constant curse of overthinking the past?
As Luigi Pirandello (1867-1936), Sicilian writer and 1934 Nobel Prize Winner, said in one of his
most famous works:
“Ma se possiamo vederla, questa forma, è segno che la nostra vita non è più in essa: perché se
fosse, noi non la vedremmo: la vivremmo, questa forma, senza vederla, e morremmo ogni giorno
di più in essa, che è già per sé una morte, senza conoscerla.
Possiamo dunque vedere e conoscere soltanto ciò che di noi è morto. Conoscersi è morire .”
(“La Carriola”, L. Pirandello)
“But if we can see it, this form, it is a sign that our life is no longer in it: for if it were, we would not
see it: we would live it, this form, without seeing it, and we would die more and more every day in
it, which is in itself a death, without knowing it.
We can therefore see and know only what is dead of us. To know ourselves is to die.”
Art looks for its own end
So is it possible that Wilde’s preface to ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’, which serves as a manifesto for Aestheticism, along with the motto ‘art for art’s sake’, might be dangerous to art itself if taken too seriously?”
I mean by this that if art’s reason becomes nothing but itself, the artist inevitably loses oneself, for the only thing that the artist ends up being able to do is look at things from the outside and not actively participate in life. This way of doing art, totalizing and obsessive, damages the artist who becomes caught up more and more in the illusion that art is detached from reality, while art must never lose focus on its origin, which is reality.
No artwork can ever summarize life, it is always an attempt, a noble one, but every artist must be aware of this. Art must never have the pretense of giving life a fixed structure, for art’s goal should be to genuinely reflect on life, without forcing an oppressive form on it.
Tragedy as catharsis
Living for art’s sake is addictive because it works really well. It makes every emotion more powerful, more dramatic, more tragic. I firmly believed that living that way was the only way possible until very recently when I read about the birth of theatre and tragedy in ancient Greece, which was a public service in Athens.
The poet, taking figures of mythology commonly known, constructed personas (characters, masks) showing not just the έπος (“èpos”, the narrative, epic side of the story), but also the ήθος (“èthos”, the “way of living”, personality, behavior) utilizing the χορός (“chorós”, the chorus, that was a projection of the audience). Theater in this way was born as a collective κάθαρσις (“kàtharsis”, catharsis) to warn and heal from the ὕβρις (“hýbris”, excess, over-indulgence, usually
derived from arrogance).
The role of theatre is then a controlled catharsis through tragedy. Too much drama kills authenticity, since it fixes our lives in a form that is just a character to impersonate, then making us just look at life and not actually live it.
Drop the act
We live in a world where we are overly looked at, judged, evaluated, and compared, making it impossible not to free ourselves from a fixed and oppressive form. So, should we all look at ourselves from the outside a bit less?
Art is freedom, but what if it needs a break from itself from time to time, to find back genuine inspiration?
Should we all drop the act?
I believe we can never really drop the act because we are always conscious of our living, but there’s no harm in trying to look for a bit of lightness.
Now comes the time to finally tell you what that catchy little title means.
Do you think poets need more drama in life than those they already see in everything? Not at all.
When you can find beauty in everything, then nothing emerges as more beautiful than the rest: if everything can be a subject of love then nothing is loved uniquely.
Then the only way to be loved by a poet is not to be loved at all, not in the passionate obsessive way that art requires. Muses are never truly loved by artists, they are expedients for art, excuses to create more. By being really loved by a poet you renounce to becoming art, for the true love of a poet is grounding, real, and not a fairytale. It is un-poetic, un-tragic because the artist needs to be distracted from the obsession of art, and a poet only needs someone who’d guide them, help them drop the act, the act that is life through a poet’s eyes.
If a poet tells you that you made them feel like a muse, that is love. Because you made them get out of their thoughts and into reality.
As Thomas Mann (1875-1955) said, deeply desiring a lighthearted way of living:
“Aber meine tiefste und verstohlenste Liebe gehört den Blonden und Blauäugigen, den hellen Lebendigen, den Glücklichen, Liebenswürdigen und Gewönlichen.”
(“Tonio Kröger”, T. Mann)
“But my deepest and most stealthy love belongs to the blond and blue-eyed, the bright and lively, the happy, lovable and beautiful.”
So, after this retrospective on beauty and art, I ask of you one last thing: go and love artists like muses, and remember to drop the act once in a while.
All the love,
Until forever is forgotten,