Art is Stupid

Art has no point.  Paintings are really worthless.  The ‘value’ of a painting is assigned by some person who has enough clout in the art world so that others will listen and obey.  If I create something magnificent – a little visual glimpse of heaven – no one would care.  There would be no monetary value to it.  The right people who have enough power (based solely in their position in life) did not give their blessing on it.  If someone else, however, that has the backing of these same people creates a piece of garbage, it is priceless because enough of the right people have fallen over backwards for it.

Also, there is no practical application for art.  I suppose we could break down a painting and burn the wood of the frame.  But what about music?  We could chop up the instruments, I suppose.  As for the actual incarnation of the music, the melody and harmony, there is no practical purpose for it.  It is mindless noise, droning on and on and on.

You cannot give a compelling argument against this simple fact: art is stupid.

Art could vanish from the world and life would continue.  Art does not keep buildings erect.  In fact, some sculptures defy basic engineering tenets and could collapse under any sort of external weight or pressure.

Art does not keep people alive.  It does not plant seeds or harvest grain or raise livestock.

Art does not bring healing to the infirm.  Doctors and medicine accomplish that as much as they are able.

Art didn’t create the rules in which a society operates.  Art did not dictate simple universal rules like respect for human life.

Art is stupid.

We have not been told anything else our entire lives.  You may think you are enlightened or educated, so much so that you believe art has some place in our lives.  But you are wrong.  You have been severely misled.  Look around you.  No one wants your art.  No one cares if you sculpt with precision or your voice is liquid gold.

It comes down to this: what is it worth?  What is your creation worth?  How much can I sell it for?  How can it help me buy other things?  How does it add to our gross domestic product?

Your art is worthless.  And so is the time you spent creating it.  And so are you.

In this Western world, if you do not produce something of ‘value’, you are worthless.  Your life has no point, like the art you think you are creating.  People may applaud the immediate unveiling of your latest masterpiece, but at some point everyone is thinking: ‘This has no practical use’.  And so you have wasted that precious commodity that you cannot refund, transfer or accrue: time.  No man’s insatiable greed or ambition can retrieve one spent second of precious time.

Art is stupid.

But how I love it.

It may not heal the body, but it can heal the soul.  The wounds it can bind are unseen by others, but felt deeply by the individual.

Art does not provide food or shelter, but it can make both enjoyable.

Society can live on without art, based on rules enforced by an authoritative government.  Art, however, communicates the beauty of life and the need to respect it.

And though this society prefers efficiency over aesthetics and position over truth, art will be the quiet corner that never leaves.  It may have no practical purpose to those in a hurry to breathe their last breath, but for the wise it will be an ever present opportunity to stop and observe life.  To partake in making observations about life and beauty.  To allow others to communicate their observations about love and eternity.

So to all the ambitious and greedy people who run a race to the grave….you have my pity.

To anyone who made it this far in the reading, take warning: art is stupid, and you’ll be stupid for wasting your time on it.  But to do anything else would be true stupidity.

Comments on: "Art is Stupid" (20)

  1. Let me get this straight; Art is stupid. People who love art are stupid. But you love art, too.

    How are you any different than the “ambitious and greedy people who run a race to the grave…”?

    All you’re really saying is you’re a bigger, better elitist than the run-of-the-mill art-elitists you despise, because you are smart enough to realize what you love is essentially worthless and stupid.

    Sorry, but you can’t just try to save it at the end there by saying it’s stupid to waste time on art, but also stupid not to. In a world where some people like art and some don’t care, you’re really just calling everyone stupid.

    First world problems…

    • joshuasphilosophy said:

      I don’t think Barrett was personally arguing that art is stupid. I think we was being more metaphoric in saying that society largely doesn’t value artistry anymore. In our modernistic society, we’re losing touch with art and literature and things that shape our inner selves.

      Or I could be wrong and he’s saying that everything is stupid…which would be stupid…which would prove his point….and that would be really deep! 😛

  2. I think you may be right, but there is a way to make that point without over doing it. Honestly, this sort of comes off as a rant. I think if it were one part “art is stupid”, one part “I love art” and then two parts “art is actually important and here’s why” he’d have nailed. This us more like an “art is stupid” cocktail on the “but I love it” rocks with a “boy this is worthless” chaser.

    Or maybe I just like to argue. 🙂

    As an artist, musician and writer, I had to defend my mediums.


    • joshuasphilosophy said:

      You can’t go wrong with using cocktails, rocks and chasers as analogies! I’m good with arguing…or deflecting it with lame humor…but I’ll let Barrett decide which one to use.

      Oh, BTW since you’re online…. I have a lot of good thoughts on your reply to my Rob Bell piece (which I really enjoyed because we share much of the same thoughts). You’ll see my reply later on today.

  3. *nailed “it”. Darn iPhone keyboard’s too small.

  4. Hey Tony, thanks for your comments. Josh really hit it on the head, and more eloquently. This is more a view of society than art. This is an internal struggle I have as an artist: what is the value of what I create? Or is there any? Or as Sufjan Stevens said in a recent interview, he sees the value in the act of creating, not necessarily the end product (I’m paraphrasing heavily here).

    And yes, this is definitely a ‘developed’ country issue. After all, where would we be without Maslows pyramid of self-actualization, right?

    Rant? Possibly. But would you rather I preach at you?

    And am I different than those I call greedy and ambitious? I don’t know. I live in America as do you so by default i guess we are both greedy and ambitious. Depends on who you ask, I suppose. But am I that self-obsessed to miss out on the beauty and truth that others observe and create? Man I sure hope not. I hope no one is.

    And finally, I’m a fan of overdoing it in writing just as actors on stage are overdoing it when they act: the purpose is to capture attention. To create a mirror or looking glass with which to view yourself or the world in a different way. I hope my writing can develop into a swift kick out the door of fimiliarity for the audience and into a different world of exploration. I’m definitely not there yet but man that’s my goal.

    And I hear you about typing on an iPhone. I’m using one right now (technically itouch, but same idea). I apologize for any misspellings or bad grammar.

  5. Barett,

    I guess I can see your point. I just wonder why you were so oblique about it. 🙂 There’s nothing wrong with saying exactly what you mean, then making a good, no nonsense metaphor. But again, this is all style critique at this point I suppose. There’s no accounting for taste, and I certainly won’t pretend to be “right” about something so subjective.

    I mean, isn’t that exactly what we’re talking about in the first place?

  6. Well said, Tony, well said.

  7. Thanx this is great and perfect

  8. Art God Dog said:

    Art is a contradiction just like life…well said. I am an artist and often I feel this way. But, lets face the fact that ideals never manifest in the real world as material value, but retain a sense of spirituality. Art making therefore, is primarily spiritual. It’s not about what society thinks…if you can become famous and sell lots of work and get rich, good for you, but youre never more worthy than some simple, poor African man making traditional folk art or Granny knitting scarves.

    • I’d just like to point out that I still make art (music, tattoos, etc…), and it is a completely non-spiritual activity for me.

      So maybe that’s just one more contradiction to add to the list of self negation that is art.

      • That’s an interesting point, Tony. Can you elaborate a little more (on creating art as a non-spiritual activity)? Like, does it feel like a chore? Or is it a mindless activity? Not that spirituality is always an exciting adventure.

        Maybe that’s why I haven’t created as much as I feel I need to lately: I’m looking too much for an adrenaline high from creating, you know? Maybe I’m just a junkie at my core.

      • Wait… it seems to me you’re the one positing something atemporal, supernatural, non-physical, and that I’m just saying what I do is material and pragmatic, and somehow I have the burden of proof? I think we’re going about this backwards. I’m the one making the obvious, banal claim.

        I can’t “prove” art isn’t spiritual anymore than I can “prove” ghosts don’t exist. Proving a negative is a logical impossibility.

        But hey, I’ll give it a whirl anyway. Maybe we’re just confusing terms here….

        Say someone wants a tattoo designed for them. They tell me what they want (most recent was a rose with a skull blooming out of the center in gothic style); then I draw it.

        That’s it. Nothing spiritual about it. I just draw what people want. If it needs tweaking, then they say, “Hey this part is cool, but this part sucks, so fix it.” Then I fix it.

        Same with music. Say someone wants a guitar part on a song. I go to their studio, listen to the song, memorize the chords, then fiddle around with different sounds until they hear what they like.

        Same goes for me designing my own tattoos, writing my own music, or the occasional fiction writing I do. All those things qualify as art, and I see no spiritual element whatsoever.

        I’d say if you want me to buy the idea that art is spiritual, you may need to come up with some form of positive proof, since negative proof is logically impossible.

      • I think I may have worded it poorly. I wasn’t asking for proof. I was just asking for what it is like when you create art. What feelings do you have, what vision do you follow. That sort of thing. I was just asking for clarification of your worldview, so I could better understand you.

        But since we are on the topic of spirituality, what would you define as spiritual?

      • Nothing.

        The word spiritual, to me, is just a linguistic placeholder for things we are either not very good at explaining or for which our current vocabulary is too limited. Things like emotions and feelings which seem intangible, even though they correlate virtually directly to chemistry and nerve conduction in the brain.

        To me, the word spiritual is just a crutch term for the sublime or beautiful or nuanced, and even these terms have more metaphysical baggage than I am comfortable with.

        Put in real terms, I love my wife, but I understand that this feeling is a result of chemical reactions based on my past experiences which have paved the way for my personality to be well suited to getting along with her personality. If my brain chemistry dramatically changes (like it did when I had that awful concussion) my love for my wife may change.

        I have experienced that first hand, and it’s weird. Honestly, hit my head, and with the swelling on my brain it was as if I knew, mentally, I should love this woman, and yet for a few months I could feel nothing but impatient contempt for her. My “spirit” or “soul” didn’t change during that time. I simply had swelling on my right temporal lobe.

        When the swelling abated, my “feelings” returned to normal. It’s all physical, and that’s why I’m a materialist. My love for the painting in my office is the same, and if my brain chemistry is ever dramatically changed in that respect, in that area, I expect I won’t much care for it any longer.

        Hope that makes sense. 🙂

  9. James Jibson said:

    Didn’t get into art school eh?

    • No, I didn’t. I sent them a headshot with glitter and everything, but no dice. What more do those people want from me?!?!?

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