News Article

Art for Heart’s Sake

nonfiction

When someone says, “art for art’s sake,” we must immediately be suspicious. Firstly, they need to explain just what precisely art means to them. Is it the Louvre, the MET, or the British Museum? Do they adore Thomas Cole’s Consummation of Empire but miss the warnings of a decadent people in detrimental leisure? The prosperity; ships of trade, golden towers, marvellous pantheons! We see a people celebrating atop their laurels, who feel their security is assured.

Thomas Cole. Consummation of Empire. 1833-1836, oil on canvas. Via Wikipedia.

 

These people must not know that Cole painted a violent sequel. But I wonder, what does this painting remind you of? Not us, that’s for sure. As members of the impoverished, the renter, the meal-skipper, the dreamer, the artist, and believer—we see what we are not allowed to see; the chance for myself and my peers to be a successful, peaceful, and happy generation.

So when someone loftily says, “art for art’s sake!” we must protest, because these smug comments are veiled in alienating contexts of power.

Art should be beautiful, untainted by politics. It should be liberated from the common concerns of life. Art must be mystifying, escapist, and engaging purely in its capture of the human condition, be that an animal, a landscape, a battle, or a fruit bowl.

The Louvre, the MET and the British Museum all hold collections that remind the viewer of Cole’s Consummation of Empire. Antiquity’s relics connecting their nations to Rome’s, Greece’s and Egypt’s legacy of power, culture, and imperial hegemony. That makes it political. Much of it is stolen, prizes of conquest. That certainly makes it political. Currently, people are increasingly assaulting works traditionally deemed pinnacles of high art. Take the Mona Lisa soup incident. Remember the last time? It was cake. If you have something to say, you feed the Mona Lisa. Sensational? Indeed. Impactful? For one news cycle. Change achieved? No. By attacking a painting that—better than most—epitomises “art for art’s sake,” and therefore is not having any dialogue with the world, how does one hope to start a conversation with it, and its kind, by doing anything to it?

The Louvre, the MET and the British Museum are top-down. They are talking TO the viewer. Not WITH the viewer. They try to impart lessons, which we may interpret freely. But I am not interested in lessons. I am interested in speaking and being heard. We want to be heard in our art: when we write that we are suffering, paint that we are starving, and sing that we are slowly dying. We want to be heard dammit! Our art is not for art’s sake. Our art is for the heart’s sake.

So when we look at Thomas Cole’s Consummation of Empire, who does it remind us of? Yes, that’s right—the nations clinging to their dollar dominion. The nations waging more and more war as their grip loosens with their sweat. Under that stunning gold and pearl facade, the towers of wickedness are concealed. The bones disintegrated to build those pillars over napalmed forests and ruined hospitals. Our government cuts funding to our ability of expression as they rest on mountains of financial supplication—taxpayer and lobbyist. Did you know that our deeply loved La Mama Theatre has announced it will not operate in 2025? Would you like to know why? Vital government funding, a lifeline to so many artists and art institutions, was cut. Art is the most powerful synthesiser of our dreams, aspirations, wishes and visions. Art is our ally in complaining, communicating, and reaching common ground. Why is it being taken from us when we need it most? We cannot stand for it. We will not be talked to by budget cuts and ancient relics or the Louvre, the MET, and the British Museum.

Our common humanity is one of the greatest things we can strive to show in our art. The phrase “art for art’s sake” is but the conqueror’s pointed gun neutering our political, personal, and powerful art into the plebeian’s low art. We the people are low, poor, filthy, desperate, and drenched in sweat paying Woolie’s gouging prices and we are proud of it! We are human, hear us roar, in numbers too numerous to ignore.

We must steal the gun from the enemy and turn it upon them. Protect our provocative art with a preface, “this is only art for art’s sake,” or “I write this to entertain.” Oscar Wilde showed us how. Set the trap in the preface, guide them in through marble halls of aesthetic uselessness, then shut and lock the doors behind them. But what about funding? We can find established artists to nurture us, but the street is free, isn’t it? Street poetry is an exciting, emerging practice, easy to do and hard to ignore. Write your words upon the wall. But remember we are making art for the heart’s sake, and therefore, love’s sake. Out on the streets somewhere is this exact message:

Jaidyn the Street Poet. Choose Love. A wall somewhere.

 

Choose love. Choose love. Choose love. Choose love.

Assault the streets and exhibits and theatres with our “low art,” but remember it has no hope of lingering if it is not grounded in our love for common humanity. Not united by our hatred of the enemy, but by the common brotherhood and sisterhood of humanity. We cannot change one evil for another. Low, hearty art reverts to a new, beautifully dressed terror, and the good work is over. Keep your heart in your art. Your life depends upon it. Unity of the low artists, through concentrated rage, is unsustainable. It is necessary for action, but for maintaining the spirit of the movement, hearts must be won.

“Art for art’s sake” is the perfect phrase for our enemy because it is purposely confusing and vague. What does it mean by art? Literally anything. What does art for the heart mean? Exactly what it says. Art is for the heart, and hearts won equals a revolution well done.

 
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