Value of Art

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 11 Jul 2017 11:30:12


By Vijay Phanshikar


“Humanity has lost its dignity, but Art has rescued it and preserved it in significant stone. Truth lives on in illusions of Art, and it is from this copy, or after-image, that the original image will once again be restored. ...”

- Friedrich Schiller,
German philosopher, artist, scientist,
architect, in his famous treatise
On the Aesthetic Education of Man (1794).

This is a tremendously powerful thought. Schiller believed that when a dark moment hit human experience, when it threatened human dignity’s decline, a resort to Art could help restore a sense of self-worth and dignity. He grew up and lived in limes when
idealisation of art had just begun gaining
verbal expression. The belief that Art had the capacity to shape human mind, and therefore human potential, was gaining currency. It was in those times of renewed trust in Art’s capacity to raise the human discourse to sublime levels, Freidrich Schiller lived and practised his very many talents.
Alain De Botton, well known architect and commentator, has quoted Schiller in his very intellectually sound and spiritually
elevated book titled ‘Architecture of Happiness’ (Penguin Books, Revised Edition 2014, Paperback) as he highlighted the
importance of Art in human existence. De Botton writes, in chapter titled ‘Ideals’, “If buildings can act as a repository of our ideals, it is because they can be purged of all the
infelicities that corrode ordinary lives. A great work of architecture will speak to us of a degree of serenity, strength, poise and grace to which we, both as creators and audiences, typically cannot do justice -- and it will for this very reason beguile and move us. Architecture excites our respect to the extent that it surpasses us. ...”
Thus, architecture is not just a science of designing buildings or shaping spaces, but as much a spiritually-oriented activity that can raise the human existence to sublime levels, add certain aesthetic value to the artificial
surroundings Man creates, and grant humans an opportunity to redeem themselves when certain infelicities, certain uncertainties,
certain indignities afflict the living. That is why De Botton quotes Schiller:
“Humanity has lost its dignity, but Art has rescued it and preserved it in significant stone. Truth lives on in illusions of Art, and it is from this copy, or after-image, that the
original image will once again be restored. ...”
The world has long back concluded that architecture is also an expanded Art worked out on vast canvases. The discourse here is, of course, not about architecture but it is about the capacity of Art to elevate human life to a sublime, spiritual level. Of course, this may not be realised, or even understood, by all. For, when the obvious is the norm, whatever is not obvious, or whatever is sensed only by the innermost core of human soul, fine nuances of resurrection of human spirit from the dirty and dark abyss of negative
experience generally skips attention.
Despite this filthily low level of human
sensitivity, human societies have often valued Art tremendously. For, it is in Art that the human society, since time immemorial, has
re-lived its own dreams and reshaped its own aspirations. Dark moments do hit us hard, almost debilitating us out of shape. And in those times, what has the capacity to resurrect our spirit? It is Art.
So believed Schiller and countless many others, not only in those times marked by people of greatness of Goethe, but also in all times. Art, thus, often propelled a despairing human spirit into a zone of extreme verve and boundless urge and surge of creation -- through darkness, through staidness, through
ordinariness, through adversity.
In architecture, this thought has often found experimental expression in a big way.
Human societies have created structures of tremendous worth not only in terms of
their physical value but in terms of their
metaphysical core, in terms of their ability
to communicate the unstated urges and surges of spirit.
Again, talking of architecture is not the issue; the issue is of talking about Art’s
ability to change life’s shape into something very beautiful, something extremely sensible and sensitive.
When Art is created, it also creates endless possibilities of newer creations, newer gifts to human collective. Those societies that value Art actually and indirectly pay tribute to this basic idealisation of the fine and the sublime.