The Metaphor of Art

 

By Sam Powers

Detail from Michelangelo’s “Creation of Adam” from the Sistine Chapel

Detail from Michelangelo’s “Creation of Adam” from the Sistine Chapel

A false dichotomy separates art from entertainment. And it separates art from design as well. The whole notion that art is “this” and not “that” is an uninformed superficial view. The only thought the question, "is this art?" should prompt is that the asker doesn’t know much about art. Borrowing language from Noam Chomsky, trying to define what is and is not art is a meaningless discussion based on metaphor. The word “art” operates as a metaphor, and to each person that metaphor takes on different meanings. Some use “art” as a metaphor for precise representation of nature, while others use “art” as a metaphor for honest expression. For me, “art” is a metaphor for the boundless unspeakable nature found in everything, so even a discarded bag of chips on the street is art.

That bag is art because nothing intrinsically separates art and whatever one considers not art. By this I mean if I view the bag of chips in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, I view it as an artwork, one which provides a glimpse into the society and people who created the object. I can see everything in the bag of chips. I see all that led to the creation of that bag and what brought me to look at it. None of which is explicitly in the object itself. It is in how you view the object. Anything can be seen as art whether it be a mountain landscape, an egg carton, or a movie made for entertainment. The objects are all equally revealing of whatever truth you are looking for, but you have to see it as such. White walls or space in a museum happen to be convenient devices to switch people into looking at objects in such a way, but the object itself does not change. Your point of view changes. The art object works as a mirror reflecting back unto you your own unique reality with whatever truths you perceive.

To further my argument of why the bag of chips is art, consider art and God as different words for the same metaphor. I will make my case.

The bag should be included because nothing intrinsically separates God and whatever one considers not God. By this I mean, if I view the bag of chips in a temple, I view it as God, an object which provides a glimpse into the society and people who created the work. I can see everything in the bag of chips. I see all that led to the creation of the bag and what brought me to look at it. and none of it is explicitly in the object itself. It is in how you view the object. Anything can be seen as God whether it be a mountain landscape, an egg carton, or a movie made for entertainment. The objects are all equally revealing of whatever truth you are looking for. You just have to see it as such. Stained glass and incense just happen to be convenient devices to switch people into looking at objects in such a way, but the object itself does not change. Your point of view changes. God works as a mirror reflecting back unto you your own unique reality with whatever truths you perceive.

People much more wise and elegant such as Rumi spoke of God as a boundless entity encompassing all: “Inside and outside, he surrounds my heart. / My body, my soul, my veins and my blood, are all Him” (38). Applying the same idea to art breaks it free from all restraints. Art is no longer bound by artifacts, dualities, or restrictions.. Art dances with God in the clouds, exactly where it should be.

Rumi. Reading the Veil: Literal and Poetic Translations of Rumi. Translated by Shahram Shiva, HOHM Press, 2015



 
Rachel KubrickComment