She has a way with words does Dee Dee. That’s Doriandra Smith to you. She’s a friend of mine. She is one-half of Balkh, a band like no other.
“Not One Rat’s Ass.” That is how art should be. Not uncaring but honest. It should at times stop us in our tracks, make us think, even scare us a bit. Couple that slogan of Doriandra’s with one of my own, ‘Art by Barrow Boys and Girls,’ and you pretty much have my view on the creative process, though my own slogan sadly lacks the attitude of Doriandra’s.But I am getting ahead of myself. Being premature has long been a problem of mine. They, whoever they are, insist every story should have a beginning, a middle and an end. Really?
OK. Forgive me quoting yet again Dee Dee – ‘Not One Rat’s Ass.”
And in the beginning, there was man…
I believe there are two factors that define but also distinguish us from the rest of the animal world: our seeking of spirituality and our creativity. The two are linked. Due to their superior intellect, primitive humans thought this could only have been a great creator who formed us in His image. If that were the case (but it patently isn’t) then Ray Davis would have been right when he wrote, “I’m an Apeman, I’m an ape, apeman, I go ape man.” If we look like God then God is one hairy deity fond of nibbling the odd banana when not creating DNA.
The division between what some see as God, nature, and science is false. There is no division. The three are the same thing. ‘The ten-thousand things and I are of one substance.’ It took humans, with our incredible creativity, using the simple tools we had at the time, to conceive of a deity; of having someone who made all that Homo Erectus could see around them: the stars, the oceans, the winds, the grass, the animals they hunted, as being made with a purpose in mind. There certainly was a purpose, but not the sort early hominids could understand. You see, humans created God in man’s image, not the other way round, and we did this with our phenomenal creative ability. So we daubed on cave walls, used truncated limbs from trees to illustrate the unknowable. Our primitive soul reached deep within itself as we sought to understand things without.
And we created art…
Art is not a gift given the few, for art is but a name given to what already existed in us. Art is human. From deep within us, with our passion to imagine the unimaginable, to create from the pool of dreams things of curious beauty, inexplicable dark dimensions, we began to do what we believed God had done before. We began to create.
Art is creativity. It is part and parcel of what it is to be human. We all have creativity, though to varying degrees. The obvious difference is that one artist may have greater appeal to a larger audience than another. This instantly initiates a commercial appeal, for where there is a mass market there is money, and nothing makes money quite like art. 10CC were right – ‘Art for Art’s Sake, Money for God’s Sake.’ But God is missing when the schillings are ching-chinging. Too often art is a method by which to accumulate wealth, which in turn means all those talented people whose creativity is less marketable get overlooked by those in positions to influence just because the margins are low. I find this a loathsome practice.
One of my favourite watchwords comes from guitarist Robert Fripp who, when speaking on the subject of music said – ‘Head, Heart, Feet.’ In other words, the brain engages, finds the object it scrutinises to be of significant beauty or vastly disturbing so that the heart is moved either by appreciation or fear and the viewer is engaged. And sometimes fear plays a greater role, for it is by being challenged that we are forced to examine the ways we think and by doing so are able to see matters from a different perspective.
Humankind created a great creator believing the great creator created everything. Ever since humankind has been aping their self-created great creator by creating. Therefore, God is creativity; creativity is art; creativity is man; man is art. Simple.
Art, with its plaques, its superior manners, its pretentions, its conceits, and its brash attitude to money is not such a bad thing, really, but we should always remember creativity, in all its myriad forms is art, and it seeks not cold coin but just the opportunity of self-expression.
With grateful thanks to Lorna Wood who not only edited this piece but who works closely with Professor Don Wehr’s.
Levinas and Nineteenth-Century Literature presents nine essays that reread major British, American, and European nineteenth-century literary texts in light of the post-deconstruction ethical philosophy of Emmanuel Levinas. The first section pursues in essays on Wordsworth, Coleridge, De Quincey, and Baudelaire connections between Levinas’s radical rethinking of subjectivity and Romantic generic, aesthetic, and conceptual innovation. The second section explores how Levinas’s analysis of totalizing thought may illuminate how Poe, Emerson, Hawthorne, Douglass, Susan Warner, and Melville grapple with American experience and culture. The third section considers the relevance of Levinas’s work for reassessments of the realist novel through essays on Austen, Dickens, and George Eliot. Essay authors are A. C. Goodson, David P. Haney, E. S. Burt, Alain Paul Toumayan, N. S. Boone, Lorna Wood, Donald R. Wehrs, Melvyn New, and Rachel Hollander.
Lorna knows a thing or two about English
Russell Cuts the Corn From The Brewers Whiskers.