The Happiness of Mad MenWhy does art exist? Why does poetry seek a place in our souls? Where does it come from? Who’s it for? Why do we even bother?
by craig podmore 14.01.09 ©
by craig podmore 14.01.09 ©
Those questions I have mentioned above are those that haunt me every day. It is the pointlessness of aesthetics - the numbing of pains of reality. The separation of being ‘awake’ and realising. The realisation of our existence and the point of it.
To be brutally honest, I don’t know why we bother. The scribes of ones thoughts are for absolutely nothing but the veneer pretension of artistic provocations. When one takes time to sit and ponder of such profound allegories, what is the ultimate point of it? Is it a false mirror of narcissism? Do we proclaim ourselves being something important such as a poet or a messiah? The reader consumes every word of your world and believes it but then it is then that the reader goes about their daily lives, forgetting its importance and possible credibility and meaning. So what makes each and every artistic individual create art, poetry, music and film? Where does the impulse come from? Is one full-filled when one has accomplished a piece of art only for it to be forgotten, misunderstood, hated or worst of all, ignored?
It is a mundane machine that we all partake within and its cogs aren’t always functioning properly. The broken cogs could be those who think more, in veto of it all. It is these cogs whom I shall identify as the artists / poets. It is the motional cogs that carry on regardless. The idealisms, philosophies created by the defunct cogs are insignificant or the possibility that the motional cogs are dilettantes. Those who crave art, expressionism and philosophy but for only their own pretension and self-indulgence which can also be interpreted as their own insignificance to themselves. It is those who are moved by art and creativity although, on the other hand, they are swallowed by their own importance and existence. How about those who are inspired by such works? They begin to create, to write and become a newly found artist in a sense of self-discovery. Like Van Gogh perhaps? An artist who started a career in priesthood but whom aimlessly thwarted to a path of confusion. Constantly drunk and perplexed, he delved into art creating some of the most acclaimed paintings of inanimate objects. An introvert angered by the world. A self destructive who had many affiliations with prostitutes. In sheer madness, a moment of chaos led to the cutting of his ear only for it to be a gift to one of the prostitutes he was infatuated with. He blamed the betrayal of Judas for such lunacy but then painted a self portrait of himself, bandaged where his right ear once remained. Was the dismembering of the ear an act, a performance perhaps? An artistic decision? If so, what was the point? Have many people cared why he did such a thing? No, but have they called him mad, of course they have.
So, if there is any point in creativity then why does God exist? After all it is an idea that we created. We need reasoning and that reasoning is divine intervention. Is God like the muse of a poet? The reasoning of writing. An ‘outside’ power of ideas that at the most inconvenient of times empower us. The muse is the phantom inspiration. If this is the case why does this muse ‘speak’ to us? What is the point of her existence if one does exist? Like little meaningless revolutionaries, poets and artists alike try to change the world around them only for the world to hate them and in the end, destroy and betray them. In the case of John Lennon, a singer / songwriter who once protested for peace in the times of absolute hate and chaos. America in the midst of the Vietnam War, Lennon used his music to advocate his message most significantly in his song Imagine. A beautiful song that had meant so much too so many. His revolution had started and the word was changing…….wasn’t it? Did everybody listen? Of course they didn’t. One man had an inspiration of violence and disillusionment. Mark Chapman shot John Lennon on 8th December, 1980 in New York City. It was only in this act of violence (however unfortunate) which Lennon’s revolution and message became more meaningful. The whole world mourned and had surpassed realisation. Like Jesus Christ, it was his death that changed the world for both better and the worst. Chapman and his gun created a silence to a great poet who had meant for the greater good. Imagine today is still popular and is heard often but does it still mean something? Does it change anything? Iraq, Gaza, 9/11 – one must come to a conclusion that it doesn’t and has only become a piece of aestheticism.
Even in the ascetic world, those who used God in order to create peace have been murdered by those who ignore; the motional cogs as it were. Ghandi, shot and killed on the 30th January, 1948 by Hindu extremists, a man who created the day of Non-Violence with the date of his birthday. Also, one should note the many assassination attempts of most Popes. God and art both hold a powerless sentiment, an easily forgotten one at that. So, one begs the question once again, what is the point of it all?
It is always a strange moment for when one has an explosion of ideas during a bus journey, washing plates or any other mundane activity. The muse hits the artist like a hammer, like a consciousness found within the gap of the subconscious, the abyss of the artistic mind. There are many elements within reality that affect us emotionally; love, hate, desperation, depression, wrath and so on. Amongst many of those elements, love is an aspect of our lives that deems the most powerful (although, hate is its next door neighbour). Love has inspired many, many works of art, especially unrequited love – it is an area well explored. The Divine Comedy, an epic poem by Dante Alighieri about his true love for Beatrice. He proves this by walking (alongside poet Virgil) throughout the theological landscapes that of Hell, Purgatory and ultimately Heaven, where Beatrice remains awaiting for Dante’s presence. In reality, Dante was trapped in an arranged marriage but his love for Beatrice was great. She was much younger than Dante and she too was about to be married, this had hurt Dante ever so profoundly. He once tried to speak with Beatrice but she ignored his salutations. It was this moment that had led Dante to write his first astonishing piece, La Vita Nuova (The New Life). Due to the pains of unrequited love, it is known that Dante bellowed in self pity whilst writing this piece. Shortly after, Beatrice passed away and this is what had inspired The Divine Comedy. The exploration of not only himself but of the religion he adored and believed in as well as his love for Beatrice. She is a Seraphim; the hierarchy of angels, just below God if not on a par. This was his immortal letter of love for Beatrice. This book is renowned to be as one of the most pivotal works of poetry - not only to the literature world but also to the ascetic world. Love is a truly powerful emotion and many artists have been affected by its metaphysical presence. Lord Byron, another fine poet, like Dante had come across the unrequited also. It was a woman who had a greater love for another man whereas Byron was ignored; the pains of this led to his rebellious and debauched nature in his later life, camouflaging his wounds of the unrequited in liquor and sordid sleaze whilst in a sphere of poetic brilliance. It was what had created him and that of Dante. Love and the pains of not having it returned. Immensely inspired by such true, humanistic feelings, artists, poets, film makers, musicians have all pervasively explored its profound nature. So, the muse comes to those who are troubled by love and whispers elegies into artists’ ears demanding a piece of work. Dante may have written an important piece of literature and his yearnings for his true love will haunt the pages forever. Selfishly, in our own little worlds, do we really care? When one is affected by love, one may write or draw about its pains or its beauty but what does that say to the masses? Why did Dante want us to know about his true love? What is it to us? It is ephemerally affective- all art is ephemeral, to the creator, reader and viewer. Art may live for different generations and we may still crave its importance but what importance is that to us? A world without art is quite possibly a world with an immense amount of fear. A world without God would be a tranquil one?
To say that a world without art would be a world of fear is obviously a hypothetical perspective. There was once a bleak generation, a generation we shall remember perpetually. This is due to the outstanding deaths and tragedies it had spawned during a certain man’s reign. Adolf Hitler once stated that ‘art + politics = power’. A failed artist he once was, an artist (to some degree) who was refused a place in Vienna Academy of Fine Arts in 1907. Hitler, a man who was overwhelmed by the works of Wagner, German history and Nordic mythology became a man of one aspiration and that was to be a great artist. It was only fate to change a man into a monster. He did not successfully receive a place in the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts. They stated that his works lacked a talent for artistic painting and the human form was notably tasteless. Instead, he returned home depressed, only to discover his mother was dying from breast cancer. After such tragic events for young Hitler, he persisted to become an artist. In Hitler’s lonely world, he began to discover a new, delusional world and alongside his political friends, this world was somewhat exonerated. Told with such theatrics and intensity, it was as if Hitler had finally found the art project he was looking for. He had started to create the infamous insignia; the swastika, the death’s head, architectural figures most notably the eagle and even the uniforms, all with such depth. These ideas were just scrapbook collateral until he had claimed an important seat in the Reichstag, they became a reality. The Nordic mythology he was once obsessed with became the new Germany and the Aryan theory was reality. A new world created by an imaginative, artistic mind although, this creation was threatening. Due to immense failure in art, the death of his mother, his brush of destruction in the First World War changed this man entirely. The art became a weapon of mass destruction. Maybe he was right, art and politics does indeed equal power only for that power to be brutal and unstoppable. Thus, art can kill and art can get you killed. The art can also be an internal, insecure monster – the devil and the dilettante.
This craving for creativity and self expression is something abstract. An abstraction of emotions. The reasoning for its existence is for the happiness of mad men. Those who can not grasp the world nor understand ‘real’ life. Serial killers paint whilst they’re in prison, escaping their guilt, expressing release. John W. Gacy painted a vast amount whilst at death row. Menacing portraits of himself as the notorious and disturbing ‘Pogo’ the clown but even more startling, his face is that of a screaming skull. It is what’s in the ether; the gap between reality and the beyond where ideas live. An aphrodisiac of an abyss. For when the muse whispers is for when the sirens scream and these atoms of ideas explode this world apart. Needing, wanting, craving a revolutionised change only for it to alienate the poet, realising the poet has only found the path to an abstract nowhere.
So, please tell me, what is the point?