Art, Heart, (not) Smart?

I had finally found some free time and was listening to a couple of songs when I happened to come across an interview with this particular singer whose melodies I was listening to. So I thought why not, let’s see it.

A few minutes into the interview, the interviewer asked him how he came into the music Industry and the fellow replied, “My parents said do your graduation (read engineering) and then you can do whatever you want. So I finished my engineering, gave my certificate to my parents and set out to pursue my musical ambitions.”

If I had a penny for every time I have heard a similar anecdote from someone. Sigh. This also, however, made me think, what if these artists had landed up in some some multinational company working desk jobs day in and day out? Here’s my two cents.

We often exclaim how there is a dearth of talent and quality as well as an oncoming monotony in the various arts. What we don’t realise is what’s happening is that the talent pool is, more often than not, made to do something that would secure their future and make them financially safe rather than what their hearts yearn for.

This isn’t the only aspect that has had its effect on the world of art and artists. Let’s talk about stigma; somewhere down the line, knowingly or unknowingly, the society views an artist as someone who has nothing better to do with his time and is of no particular good to the society and this pains me, immensely. Remember, their work has made you smile, comforted you, and been an emotional aid. While you were busy at work he spent all his energy, time, resources and creativity for a noble cause. Remember, I am not just talking about singers here, I am talking about the dancers, the sculptors, the painters, the flutist you saw near the bus stop, the make-shift-drummer drumming his way to glory by the slum.

We want them to keep cultural artifacts, murals, folk songs alive often ignoring how we judge them constantly, atleast till they grab the media limelight. Don’t get me wrong here – critiquing something is very, very different from judging the piece and its maker. Criticism is what helps hone an artists skills, but judgement…? At the grass root level, we try very hard to project our negative attitudes onto budding artists, discouraging them and crushing their dreams.

The perfect testimony to this horrible attitude can be seen in the comments section of any artists work – the personal abuse and derogatory comments which has nothing to do with the work itself. It pains me, everytime I see this. Don’t like it? Put it up kindly. It is extremely normal to not agree with everyone else regarding the beauty or quality of a piece of art, however, inflicting extremely hurtful remarks at the artist is in no way helping your cause – it merely portrays you as a jealous onlooker who a) has nothing better to do with your time and b) is frustrated as he will never have half the talent that as the artist himself. As a viewer what one seems to have forgotten is that each and every artist has his own taste; sometimes which might not be yours and this necessarily doesn’t mean it’s bad. As artists they don’t inflict their opinion on the world. And as we relish their work let’s try to be respectful.

When any child decides to take up fine arts, the society starts making wild assumptions about them. His marks might have been low, why don’t you do engineering/ medicine/law, you won’t be successful if you don’t take up a white collar job. Having had friends who have faced these questions, we’ve all had no better reactions but to look clueless (as we always do in our engineering and law classes).

Here is that side of the coin they failed to see; They are following their heart, which only a fraction of the population has the guts to do. I didn’t. Their roads are difficult and it takes so much perseverance to reach that end goal. They are trying to make a living out of something they are really good at, what they genuinely enjoy doing. They are much more productive than all those who keep questioning themselves when at work,”What on Earth am I doing here?” (which, sadly, is a LOT of people.). At a popular college cultural fest, a student was heard asking an artist, “Are you happy being an artist? We all know that you have had to make a lot of sacrifices for this.” To which he replied – “To make a living doing what you love is another joy all together. Yes, it is difficult but achievable for anyone who is willing to work hard.”

The double standard that the world shows to the art world is quite apparent. The worth of a dead artist’s work runs into millions and trillions. Once they leave for the heavens, we adorn them with glory. But when alive, the controversies are never ending (to the point where if you’re an artist and haven’t had a controversial work, you’re probably no good). Choosing not to buy an artists work is your liberty, but do keep in mind what they say – Buy art from living artists, the dead don’t need the money.
Let’s not forget that every job, occupation or minority is important and contributes immensely to the diversity that humanity boasts of.

As a leaving thought, I cannot but quote Robin Williams from the film Dead Poets Society -“We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.”

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