Sunday, 28 June 2015

Arts Wants To Be Seen

You can pretend to indifferent, argues Adam Kirsch, but writing is premised on the hope of a readership:
Literary history knows of writers who have come to the very edge of oblivion: Kafka ordered his executor to burn his manuscripts; Dickinson left her hundreds of poems in a chest of drawers. But even Kafka and Dickinson gave enough signs of literary existence to the outside world that their posthumous discovery became possible, perhaps even inevitable. Such writers played a game of hide-and-seek with posterity, which may look like modesty in comparison with many artists’ blatant self-promotion, but which can also be considered a form of seduction. Surely they would have been dismayed if their tricks had worked too well and no one had ever read them at all.

Nor should this be considered a symptom of egotism or frailty. For the truth is that there is something in the act of creation that presses forward into the public realm, whether the artist goes on to seek publicity or not. To write a poem or paint a picture is to translate inner experience into outward form and presence; it is to objectify sensation, and the definition of an object is that it can be passed from hand to hand, its shape fixed for everyone. To want to be an artist without creating such an object is a contradiction in terms. And once the object is created, it wants to be seen, just as a flower or a wave wants to be seen. Art is a form of communication, and communication cannot be totally autonomous, just as there can be no such thing as a private language.

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