CONTEMPORARY ART AS PART OF CULTURAL TRANSFORMATION

PhDr. Marie Kissová / Bulgaria / - cultural scientist, Sophia - ex-member of Institute of the Ministry of Culture and the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences

I would like to share with you some thoughts which are a small part of a constant quest for the spiritual contents and the spiritual meaning of art.  My belief is that by sharing here not only the experience of music but also some thoughts about it and about creativeness we will realize more clearly and deeply that art, created or researched by you all, is indeed of utmost importance for the person doing this, for other people and for art in general. I will say straight away that according to me this realization takes place not only through thinking, as heart and soul take part in it, but also through the achievement of a special inner awareness. And it is crucial that this be understood.

 

There are at least three things which are clear and undeniable for all of us. The first is that culture as well as human life on this planet right now are crises-ridden, which is profound, comprehensive, interesting and important in that it is fateful. The second is that the only possible solution of this crisis (as of any crisis) is transformation. Of course the more deep and all-embracing the crisis is, the more radical should the transformation be and admittedly awareness is the starting point. Such radical transformation in the mode of thinking and in the way of life is exactly what we, present day people, need. All contemporary spiritual mentors, thinkers, researchers and visionaries speak about this. And the third thing is that beyond question the crucial part in consciousness transformation belongs to creators - to all creators, and mostly to artists. Here is the reason why.

 

On the whole there are two causes for art to exist. The first one is for art to express and nurture the real nature of man through creative work, making man an image and personification of God. The second reason is that art inhabits, gives life to and guards a very important territory: the space where Spirit and Matter, visible and invisible, personal and cosmic meet. Man is lost if he does not have an access to this territory, for this is exactly the area where everything in him is cultivated: his senses and feelings, his intellect, heart and personality, attitude to the world, his consciousness as a whole. Art transforms the meeting of Spirit and Matter, which is the most dramatic meeting in the world of humans, into a source of knowledge and understanding, of creative energy and joy, of meaning. Art gives us the chance to become more of human beings and makes our world more human. And since this right now is an issue of spiritual and physical survival, contemporary art provides a lot of chances and responsibilities.

 

I would like to point out at the very beginning that in my reflections I have had in mind mainly music as it is the art which is most close to me and maybe that is why I consider music - as a presence in our life and as an influence - the most universal of arts. Great is the importance of music for consciousness transformation and musicians today bear an exceptional responsibility for what happens in the being of culture. And it seems to me that although this is a subjective opinion it is valid enough.

 

The basic idea which I would like to share is that in order to survive on this planet we have to change. We have to change the way in which we perceive the world, the way in which we treat it and treat ourselves, and consequently the way in which we live. In order that this change take place, we have to realize the unity of life: that life is something integral, that is to say, all of its components are linked the way it is in every living organism. To become aware of this unity and to experience it we need Art. This is the reason art is important. Even fifteen centuries ago the Neoplatonist Proclus was aware of a fundamental truth, confirmed by contemporary science:

 Everything is in it, as it, this One, itself is. It is in everything as that which turns all existing things into this one Being, however, without their being this Being itself. Words of a genius, both as an insight and as an expression. I think that maybe the realization of  this truth is the main criterion for spirituality.

 

Next is the way a person lives: not only what he thinks, what he says and what he creates, but the way he actually lives. Life is unified. Everything which happens is of importance. Not only their actions but also all their thoughts, feelings and conditions have a real presence and influence upon life through invisible and mostly unconscious connections. The prominent film producer Andrei Tarkovski says in an interview: The greatest misfortune of  man is that he perceives himself as a closed system. For instance man thinks that he brings no harm upon himself when he does evil secretly so he does not consider this self-destructive. Man is part of the Cosmos. I am sure that the essence of man, his intellect and his energy are linked not only to other people but that these links go beyond the limits of our planet and even beyond the limits of the Solar system.

 

The awareness of the deep unity of life extends consciousness. But this extension is different from the extension which we get through the large flow of information. A century ago Ralph Waldo Emerson exclaimed: Where has our wisdom gone, lost because of knowledge? And where has our knowledge gone, lost because of information? The proper extension of consciousness takes place not only horizontally but also vertically. The two directions are connected: the horizon broadens when you go up. The volume and depth of the space which you have crossed and explored depend on the height of the peak you have reached. And this refers not only to the geographic horizon but also to the inner, cultural horizon. I am speaking about this total linkage of things because it makes the unusual part that art plays better understood.

 

Everything that art expresses, the whole process of creating and performing a work of art, the wholesome artist in his role both of an author and of a performer, of an individual and a person, constitutes reality;  all of it is present, exercises influence and is of importance. There is an inner, deep level of perceiving and understanding art which exists thanks to the senses of the soul. This is the level at which everything which has been emanated in the music by the musician’s soul (he being both a composer and a performer) and in the picture by the artist’s soul is perceived. At this level the first, the second and the third are creating works of art - they create both a  tangible and an intangible spiritual reality; they create an energy influence which is stronger when the work of art is sincere, when the recipient is more open to it and more ready.

 

This influence is present; it is a fact regardless of the tangible and perceived expressions and reactions. Evolving precisely from the truth that it is in everything, its existence contains the real power of art and increases to a great extent the artist’s responsibility. It is of importance  what you, the creator of art, are doing and the reason you are doing it for - either because you heal yourself by taking out the painful and the shadowy just to throw it away and free yourself from it, or because you want to prove yourself to you or to the world; either because you bemoan your fate and rise against the ugly, rough and chaotic world or because you suggest something new - some new enlightening experience, a new spiritual discovery, a new view of reality, a new sight hole to observe something simple, pure and wonderful, a small miracle… It is of importance if your music, painting or sculpture builds or destroys; if it offers bread or chemistry… Wise men say that every action which carries a defined idea, thought or feeling, has  magic power. This is valid especially when art is created. For this reason it is very important what ideas, thoughts and feelings have been expressed by a certain type of music or work of art. But the state of the author creating the work of art - physical, emotional and spiritual - is as important as the putting in of the contents. And this concerns not only the momentous state; the work of art reflects unexpectedly fully the artist’s character, it is his emotional and spiritual image. We may not be aware but this is present and has its influence. It is the cause for the great responsibility of the artist.

 

The way we live today is unnatural, burdened, and even painful for many people. We need air, space and naturalness. Creation of art works freshens and invigorates our lives which are blocked by the cumbersome schemes of materialistic thinking and survival existence. Creative efforts in principle bring out high and pure energies, because through them we invoke the Creator. Every creative work is the work of God. But it depends on the musician or painter if he will accept, experience and give meaning to these energies and he is the one who  organizes them and provides their corresponding shape. You well know that inspiration which is obligatory for art is an act of blessing; gift and talent are a blessing. If the artist really experiences and accepts this as a blessing, his art will also be a blessing for those who perceive it. The attitude of the artist to the process of creation reflects upon the quality and power of  impact which his work has. A Bulgarian sage says: When music reaches its highest level it turns into a prayer. I think that this can be applied to any art.

   

What priests and prophets did in ancient time and what Christ disciples did is the same which artists do, and should do today. Artists are the mediators who bring spiritual impulses and spiritual light to the heart and consciousness of people. They in fact are disciples of freedom, preaching freedom through their life of artists, because Art is a manifestation of Spirit, and Freedom is where the spirit is. In fact this is what people expect of art: freedom, freedom of the spirit, and their need today is especially intensified!

     Culture is a living organism in which and through which - in different time and on different territories - evolution of humanity has taken place. Everything is connected, everything is in a dynamic state, nothing gets lost. This organism breathes through creative work. Culture breathes through artists. Or else it dies.

     Figuratively speaking, in this organism we can discern soul, spirit and body. Spirit is what generates ideas and brings for inspiration; soul is what perceives the ideas and gives them expression, makes them tangible; in other words - it introduces them to the body of culture and this is what creative work personifies, it is breath in itself.

Artists are responsible for the air culture breathes: pure, rich in oxygen and even in ozone, or polluted stale air of different vapors or even with poison gases. The filters are in the hands of the artists. Breath is in them, it works through them, through their hearts, minds and souls. The shapes which this body of culture takes result from creative processes. Consequently the transformation of this body comes from them. Many processes in culture, hence - in society too - depend much more on artists, regardless of what we usually think or can imagine!

We constantly have in mind the knowledge that artists are dependent - they depend on social order, laws, attitudes, fashion, finance, and so on. But one of the first things for the transformation of life to start is the replacement of this accent in our consciousness. Actually from spiritual point of view the opposite dependence is much more real and also stronger. The basic hermetic principle “what is up is also down, what is inside is also outside” is valid here in full force.  Every artistic effort, every inner transformation, although invisible, is present in the cultural space; it is working and of importance. Every artistic message influences life. So the great deed of artists consists of accepting the mission to saturate the cultural space with clean, positive energies, creative ideas and meaning.

 

This is a difficult mission. Its success depends on far too many factors. One of the very important factors is the language of the art we refer to. I am not an expert to comment with competence on this problem but I know that the languages of different arts present different possibilities depending on their own abstraction and mode of use. Being means of communication these languages are subject to inevitable changes - sometimes consciously, at other times - not. These changes influence the power of impact.

 

An absolute virtuoso of literary art - Rainer Maria Rilke - says that there is space which no word can approach. But space which words can’t approach can for instance be reached by music. If a century ago  Rilke pointed out the impotence of language in the spiritual sphere, what can we say today, when language has been irresistibly attacked by electronic technologies, media and common lack of culture? Quite a number of old, beautiful and deeply expressive words have become obsolete. And so many of the strongest key words in our life, like love

and even God, have been subjected to devaluation and to unconscious or even conscious substitution of their meaning!

 

However I think that the Sphere of Spirit, which becomes more and more inaccessible for words is still accessible for  music and maybe also for visual arts. And although it also undergoes a notable invasion of technologies, media and financial interests, I hope that the devaluation of its  ”language” has not become so dangerous; and I also hope that to some extent this is the case with fine arts.

 

Every true musician knows that the music he produces makes him grow - it builds upon his inner world, his qualities, consciousness and his life in general. Music does the same to those who listen to it, although in a different way and to another degree. The more openly, consciously and deep in the heart of the recipients music is accepted, the more it creates them. This is the reason it seems to me very important that you, musicians, do not let this devaluation of “language” invade your Secret Garden, and guard - with all your heart, making efforts and being responsible - this magic art, to protect it as something sacred.

 

The total crisis of values in contemporary culture is caused by our losing to a great extent the sense of the sacred and the holy, the sense of reverence. Without this feeling one cannot make or perceive high music. This is due to the magic closeness of music to the human soul. The same condition applies to every great art.

 

I will close down by going back to the beginning where I mentioned that awareness we talk so much about happens not only through the mind but also through the heart of the person; the heart also takes part. It is important that this be understood for it turns out that without the heart we cannot carry out the desired transformation.

 

A century ago Rudolf Steiner predicted the biggest discovery of the 20 century, namely that the heart is much more than a pump and the challenge for the new epoch of humanity will be to let the heart teach us to think in a new way. This prediction has been supported by years of research, made by remarkable scholars in the field of molecular and cell biology, neurophysiology and neurocardiology, like Karl Pribram, Bruce Lipton, Joseph Pearce and many others. Pearce, who is a longtime researcher of  intellect development, said 15 years ago: The idea that we can think with our heart is no longer a metaphor but a real phenomenon. Neurocardiologists have specified that 60-65% of heart cells are neurons, absolutely identical to brain neurons and functioning exactly in the same way. Thus it was found out that the heart is a big center of intelligence which works in “constant dialogue” with the brain. Pearce insists that the research and discoveries in neurocardiology are much more impressive than quantum mechanics. They discover quite unexpected truths about human nature and its possibilities. It is certain that this new knowledge will alter our chances to understand and to change ourselves and the world, so that with the help of the intelligent heart

we can reach a new vision of life and a culture which will not endanger life but will renew it.

 

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