Why is art so important to us and so deeply integrated into our society? We might say it's because it is enjoyable and fun. But we might also say it’s because we find it relaxing; because it allows us to connect and interact with other people in a different way than our ordinary form of communicating; or because we love exploring, investigating, and understanding the different patterns, structures, and vocabulary of an artistic practice. These latter reasons are what I am so interested in because I have come to recognize them as the channels to actually understanding why art is, and has always been, such an important part of our societies and cultures, or perhaps better said part of our human race.
I started asking this question 5-6 years ago as I studied anthropology in college. I began wondering not only why I was so tied to art but also noticed that this strong connection was present in other people and in every culture. I was led to actively explore these questions asking, ‘why am I so drawn to my artistic practice?’ and ‘what role or purpose does this practice have within society?’
As an anthropologist or sociologist what we are interested in understanding are the ‘whys’ and ‘whats’ of societies and cultures: Why is this society structured like this? And why is one societal structure different from another? Why does our human race seem to be so drawn to structure and clear definition? And what are the reasons behind the way humans interact?
Now, of course we need to be careful with these questions. Just because we can’t find a rational explanation or a rational answer doesn’t mean it’s not important or it shouldn’t be part of our society. In fact, sometimes it is the things beyond what we can rationalize that make the most sense or are in fact the most important. The great Albert Einstein himself stated, “I didn’t arrive at my understanding of the fundamental laws of the universe through my rational mind". Therefore, throughout our investigations and within our conclusions we are not meant to rest in the clear and pre-defined answers, but should instead continue to question and search.
We should relish in the unknown and what we are learning along the way. This is what I have been attempting to do with art.
I began looking into it in my classes, my research projects and even through hands-on experiences and explorations in my own artistic practices and my different adventures beyond college. I have found I am especially drawn to or intrigued by the art that is created during times of great social tensions and what it is all about—what it can tell us about art’s purpose in our lives.
I first came face-to-face with it when I was studying in Barcelona, Spain where I got to study all the great Spanish Avant-Guard artists that used their art to speak out against the different injustices of their time. I was infatuated by their ability to find the words (or expression) and their willingness to express that which other people couldn’t or wouldn’t; as well as their ability to reach out to people, affecting, influencing and uniting them in a common feeling or idea.
It led me to wonder and search for whether this strength in Spain's artistic history paralleled with the role art took in other cultures around the world, and I have come to find that it does. We see, over-and-over again, art taking a leading role in the fight against injustices. Holding the voice and speaking the things that others will or can not. Through these different studies I have come to understand that one of the most powerful aspects of art is its ability to explore and express things that are beyond the capacity of structured words and phrases.
With time I have come to understand that it is not necessarily art, as the final product, that makes itself strong but rather the roots of where it comes from
—from within the individual—and its ability to let one relish, trust, and live in their creativity or the part of our brain that is not controlled by the pre-defined societal structures.
From my understanding, the cool thing about art is that it is an embodied experience and connects with a broader part of ourselves, actually using different parts and wider range of our brain than, for example, common language may be capable. The act of creating involves a vulnerable connection between the internal part of the human and the external world that is uncommon, if not impossible, through other, more common means of investigation and communication.
I want to state that this doesn’t mean that art is the only way to make these connections (the key seems to lie in creativity), but from the research and explorations I've done, it appears to be one way to do so, and I am personally interested in what it says about art’s ability and potential within ourselves and society.
It seems to me that it is for this reason that art is constantly addressing the most vulnerable and important topics within ourselves and our societies as well as carries weight and power during times when the social order we depend on falls apart. And as a bit of an anthropology nerd, I think this is all SO important, interesting and exciting!
All-in-all, these are the topics that have consumed me during the latest years. They have developed through my different life experiences and explorations. I will admit that I am no expert, but I am curious in exploring these topics, excited about sharing them with people, and interested in seeing where this leads. And this blog is about just that.
For those who know me well, you know that I have spent the last two years since college back in Spain exploring these questions through my intercultural experiences and my own artistic explorations (primarily in dance and movement). I am now starting a new adventure at a dance school in Germany where I hope to chip away some more answers to these questions I am asking.
I have decided to start this blog as a way to organize and share some of the things I am exploring. As I begin my new adventure this coming year in Germany I hope to explore and try to find answers to the different topics I have posed in this post. What I share will come from my hands-on experiences, reading, observing, and speaking with the people around me. In a world that is rich with information on these topics, both obvious and a little more hidden, I hope to digest everything I am learning here in this blog and add a little bit of knowledge to the fields that are asking these questions with me.