The Dawn: May 15, 2015
Artist: creativity and dignity
Artist in the wider sense of word may simply be defined as a human being, male or female who is endowed with the gift of creative imagination and has the capability to express it in some recognised or recognisable aesthetic form that can be shared by others.
Artistic activity in all its hues is purely a human phenomenon and thus has always been and still is one of the unmistakable marks of human evolution which shows how in our incredibly complex and unending journey we, while remaining a part of animal kingdom, have explored the world in order to transcend it as it stands defined by our limiting instincts.
“Art is necessary in order that man should be able to recognize and change the world. But art is also necessary by virtue of the magic inherent in it,” writes Ernst Fischer.
The act of recognising the world and consequently changing it is linked with the relationship that exists between creative imagination and social responsibility. It’s a paradox that creative act is of individual nature but it remains incomplete until it finds its concrete realisation in being appropriated by the collective. The collective enriches the individual creative act by interpreting and assimilating it and in doing so enriches itself.
Being an artist is a blessing as well as curse in our society which can boast of a long history of artistic traditions because of its contradictory attitude towards creative endeavour as it can be subversive in its socio-cultural repercussions for a highly stratified and hierarchy ridden order. Upper and middle classes are a good case study in this context.
They publically claim that dance is the finest expression of human movements and gestures full of symbolic significances but socially treat a male dancer a tad better than a transvestite and female dancer is taken as a little more than a dancing girl.
We love music but have nothing but disdain for musician. Musician is a celebrated figure as long he performs on public stage or in a private gathering. The moment he gets off the stage, he not only loses his iconic ambiance but is also denied the right to be accepted as equal.
He is rather treated with thinly concealed contempt for the simple reason that in our age-old social structure he comes from a caste that is considered low in the caste hierarchy. His caste identity is supposed to be his bane.
He is socially a ‘Mirasi’(custodian of heritage), not an artist. The word now carries derogatory connotations which are lost on no one. Art and caste create a paradox that makes it difficult to conceive artist and artistic expression in creative unity.
Our concept of artist is product of specific sociocultural factors. We suffer from bad faith as far as art is concerned. We need creation but despise creator as a result of a constant conflict that exists between our aesthetic urges and ill-conceived ideological imperatives.
Consequently, there is hardly any social support for art which we find in developed societies that have evolved a market mechanism and institutional patronage to enhance and sustain artistic expression.
Such societies accord artist social recognition and market provides him with material sources needed for a decent living through the sale of his products. That’s why their artists appear larger than life on the cultural landscape of the world.
It’s not just the society that is to blame for the indifferent attitude towards art. Artist must accept his share of the blame.
Even the most successful artist who makes lot of money usually squanders it on the things which instead of enhancing his creative capability hamper it. He tries to emulate the so-called elite, decadent to the core, by contracting two or three marriages and maintain a horde of punters.
Thus at the end of the day he is left with nothing. It’s not unusual to see the family of an accomplished and successful artist begging for financial aid when he falls ill. The artist loses all his dignity and self-respect when some government functionary doles out a pathetic sum for his treatment out of public exchequer not as state’s obligation but as a personal favour.
Remember how the unique vocalist, Mehdi Hassan, was humiliated when he was on his death-bed?Artistic expression is in its essence a reflection of human situation; individual and collective. It embodies the lived experience as well as latent potential. It aesthetically captures what we have and hints at what we could have. But we cannot fully appropriate all this unless the skewed relationship between artist and society is not critically examined and re-defined.—
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