home

current article

submit an article

discussion forum

contact span

art:
an expression of emotion, and a tool of many unsavory uses

art: an expression of  emotion,  and  a tool  of many unsavory uses
       painting of georgia o'keefe                                     arab dagger


nacca-gita-vadita-visuka-dassana veramani sikkhapadam samadiyamii

i undertake the precept to refrain from dancing, singing, music, going to see entertainments. -- one of buddha's ten precepts.

art (n.)
early 13c., "skill as a result of learning or practice," from old french art (10c.), from latin artem (nominative ars) "work of art; practical skill; a business, craft," from pie *ar-ti- (cognates: sanskrit rtih "manner, mode;" greek arti "just," artios "complete, suitable," artizein "to prepare;" latin artus "joint;" armenian arnam "make;" german art "manner, mode"), from root *ar- "fit together, join" (see arm (n.1)).

in middle english usually with a sense of "skill in scholarship and learning" (c.1300), especially in the seven sciences, or liberal arts. this sense remains in bachelor of arts, etc. meaning "human workmanship" (as opposed to nature) is from late 14c. sense of "cunning and trickery" first attested c.1600. meaning "skill in creative arts" is first recorded 1610s; especially of painting, sculpture, etc., from 1660s. broader sense of the word remains in artless.

fine arts, "those which appeal to the mind and the imagination" first recorded 1767. expression art for art's sake (1824) translates french l'art pour l'art. first record of art critic is from 1847. arts and crafts "decorative design and handcraft" first attested in the arts and crafts exhibition society, founded in london, 1888.

old english cræft (west saxon, northumbrian), -creft (kentish), originally "power, physical strength, might," from proto-germanic *krab-/*kraf- (cognates: old frisian kreft, old high german chraft, german kraft "strength, skill." old norse kraptr "strength, virtue"). sense expanded in old english to include "skill, dexterity; art, science, talent" (via a notion of "mental power"), which led by late old english to the meaning "trade, handicraft, calling," also "something built or made." the word still was used for "might, power" in middle english. use for "small boat" is first recorded 1670s, probably from a phrase similar to vessels of small craft and referring either to the trade they did or the seamanship they required, or perhaps it preserves the word in its original sense of "power."

craft (v.)
old english cræftan "to exercise a craft, build," from the same source as craft (n.). meaning "to make skilfully" is from early 15c., obsolete from 16c., but revived c.1950s, largely in u.s. advertising and commercial senses. related: crafted; crafting.



"chittam raati iiti chitra" - 'that which pleases the heart is art.' now in english language, the words: heart, mind and soul, not clearly understood are not well defined, as they are in sanskrit. in sanskrit, the word: chtta does not mean the heart. chitta means consciousness, the state of being aware. so that which one's awareness feels to be pleasing is art.

so what is heartfelt experience? what is awareness? chitta, soul, mind? what is feeling? what is pleasant or unpleasant?

beauty is said to be in the eye of beholder. now an eye is an organ of perception for almost all creatures except ones who live in the darkness. but even those who do have eyes do not always see what is in front of their eyes. that is why there are the art critics employed by the gallery owners and the media. they define what art is to help the rich buyers. van gogh's paintings have now thus acquired the aesthetic beauty that the patrons of art in his life time could not see not being helped by the seeing eyes of the art critics. and the collectors of the art objects, too, do not see what is in front of them, they see the amount of the price they paid multiplying with the passage of time.

buddha's advice quoted above if sounds anarchist, it does become so if put into practice. there was a loud outcry against it among the aristocrats of the vedic philosophy. it made bahartihari state: "a man without literature, music and art is an animal without tail". there is a growing interest in the buddhist philosophy in the west, as it is quite the opposite in the east. in the materially deprived eastern mind the prime search is for earning a living in the westernized ways of life. they see the western intellectuals to be materially placed in comfortable place. they also see that, the western interest in the buddha is rather a formal kind; the selected readings of books on buddhism written by the western scholars; and the imagery and symbols they can decorate their living rooms with while not pursuing their trade in the manner they have invented and mastered. there is a huge trade of smuggled pieces of artifacts, like a severed head or hand of buddha statue. they do not want to know what buddha had seen in such formal living to be empty, illusive. the western and westernized intellectuals are not interested in actualizing buddh's perceptions.

what did the buddha see in art that even his mahayani followers would not practice, and hence divided the samgha into two, the mahayana and theravada? mahayana group was formed for and by the socio-economically well placed people, the royalties and the business people with money. since unlike the vedic belief the buddha saw no need for the idea of god as the controller of mankind's destiny, there was no need for the artisan to create images of god and temples. moreover, in the samgha there was no one higher or lower than the rest. this did not sit well with the rich. so they commisioned artists to create images of the buddha and structures to house the buddhist insignia, to counter the vedic artifacts. these artisans created ajanta, bodhgaya, angkoewat, bamyan buddha and such, in the same vein as they created the pyramids, sistine chapel, taj mahal or eiffel tower.

as the story goes, buddha had been raised in a palace in which nothing was not pleasing, as his father had wanted the prince to become a king rather than a sage as predicted by the seers. the very step outside of the palace showed the young prince the difference between the real and the made up. people outside of the palace did not live like him. nothing in his surrounding was kept in its natural form and function, including his very state of being. he was not seen to be a person but prince. and this made to order identity came with a script and the order of protocol. he was experiencing life in a make believe way, like an actor on stage. the very sense of existence was made-up. it was the existence in which actors are made to obay the command of the riti, the rite. not just the prince, but any mighty president of the u.s. or the king of oil rich arab state would not dare to loosen the knot of his tie or unbutton his uniform to let his body the feel of the fresh air.

and the artist is the builder of that stage. it was the artist, who invented the form of the make-believe. he gave it a visual form, and the form the formal "riti", the manner of function. after stepping out of the formal existence, the contemplating buddha observed the shyunyata, the void of such motions of life devoid of any responding actions, save the equally formal applaud of the people who are somehow connected with the staged life, as fellow actors, directors, the stage staff, and the audience.

buddha saw that between rich and poor is a wall of art. the real seen without the culture tainted looking glasses enabled him to simplify the living in thought, speech and action. initially buddha had made his robe from the pieces of old cloths obtained from the first fifteen farmers he got his meals from. that, when touched by the artisan hand now requires cutting a new clothe into fifteen pieces, and re-sewing them together in shops to be sold to the buddhist laity, who then will donate it to the monk. and this new robe is symbolically made old by staining with an ink dot in a place that is not visible in the folds of the statuesque robe of the monk.

none of the art objects are functionally useful outside of the rehearsed, stage-like living. and it makes no difference to an overwhelming large segment of the humanity whether such art existed or destroyed like the taliban's destruction of the tallest stone buddha statue in afghanistan. those who miss it are not the artifacts, but their socio-economic ties with the places like relics, museums, mausoleums, and monuments of the dead. it is the socio-economic niche of the middle class to create and promote art. it was the artisan who solidified the buddha in permanent sitting posture, and nailed jesus to cross forever, thus taking away the very substance of life from both, as if all buddha did was to sit and jesus to stay nailed to cross.

the emptiness, experienced as the futility of any act is not unknown to anybody, but one usually blames it on the shortcomings on one's part, or calls it a fate, since one sees at least, a few benefitting from similar prescribed acts. for instance, parents who send their children to school often times at great expenses are at loss when their bright brains children do not achieve the coveted goal at no lack of the right efforts on their part, with the multiplying number of enrollments along with the decreasing demand for workers in increasingly automated industry.

art as rit, riti, rite, the formal manner of doing things does not come natural in doing it, or viewing it with pleasure. it has to be taught and learnt. hence, the schools of art, design, dance, music, literature. visual art predates the written form of expression as pictograph. the vast number of people who lack the basic biological needs, like food to eat, place to shelter and even a pothole to relieve cannot be the patrons of art nor do they get to see themselves portrayed even more miserable by the stroke of pen of the writers and performed by the actors. but just as the miserable's portrayal on paper or stage is make believe, its response from the audience is also make believe. people who shed tears sitting comfortably in the audience chairs are in reality also the causes or contributors to the socio-economic apartheid. after gandhi's meeting with the english king, when gandhi was asked by a reporter whether he felt ashamed being half naked. gandhi had stated the obvious: "the king had enough cloths on for both of them." or even more, as a king not being a real entity is dressed only to make an appearance, not for warmth. a heavily decorated five star general sitting comfortably in a cool room does not experience uselessness of the showy dress that the casually dressed peasant/viet cong fighting the american gi depicted. in a 1946 interview with american journalist anna louise strong, mao zedong used the phrase "paper tiger" to describe american imperialism. he said, "in appearance it is very powerful but in reality it is nothing to be afraid of; it is a paper tiger. outwardly a tiger, it is made of paper, unable to withstand the wind and the rain. i believe that it is nothing but a paper tiger."

and without the trained minds and hands of artisan the state of inequality cannot manifest. what state of mind it was in when the artisan who created the dagger pictured above? did he think the pain it would cause in the plunged heart would be felt pleasant, the death beautiful? the recent celebrations of the victors of the second world war, even a candle light vigil for a person to be hanged, being designed by professionals promote no peace or abolishment of death penalty.

any interaction being made between two persons if made to safeguard the titled place on the stage, and not the wearer of the title is an act of prostitution. and rapes do take place in designated brothels, too.

awareness is
like that of a highly professional geisha
that responds to everything that enters,
or like that of a juggler
that tumbles on the tight rope.
thus setting things in order of the stage
does it wander off,
leaving behind the form
that the esteemed customers fumble
or watch in awe
the staggering form on the tight rope.
if you are prostitute yourself
or another juggler,
then it's a different matter.
wait till the last customer left,
till the watching eyes faded away
from around the arena;
though i do not know what made you come,
i do know that you have not come to get
what you yourself give
you have not come
to see what you yourself show.
(from no-mind of zen)

 


additional articles:

buddhist economics

decentralization of power

counterculture in capitalism

of trust and trustees

within and without the picture frame

"Whiteman's burden"

life sustains on life

time

feminism

work and workout

on reading and writing

knowledge: intellectual property

mind over matter

medium of communication: english

one or many

economics of procreative organs

lopamudra

capitalist-kamasutra

selfless act

medal of freedom

rebel with subconscious cause

art: an expression of emotion, and a tool of many unsavory uses

literacy: revolution in the concept of education

on being an actor among pretenders

aging

on ecocentric parenting

between birth and death

police

meaning

justice

culture and counterculture

literacy: knowing what is read

utopia

the brains and their function

charity

no-mind: nothingness and no thing-ness

energy: purpose and conservation

poverty : inflicted by others and self imposed

rose by any other name: identity and the content relationship

geology and geo-politics: trails of the old and new world

the american way of life: from the eyes of a foreigner

on noninterference: interfered with the acquired ideals

web of maya: on possessions and being possessed

transfer of authority from infancy to adulthood

emperor without the clothes

laws of nature and laws of man

on science and technology

on being poor or rich

letter to barack obama

on seeing eye to eye

to be or not to be: the sense of being

on language

on seeing what is

on energy

on rearing the young

on education

understanding the place

a proposal for prison reform

individual is indivisible

on the imposed emnity

the social change; an ecological perspective

on education and philanthropy