{Of all lies, art is the least untrue - Flaubert}

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Art and Emotions.

Before coming to the topic, lets ask ourselves a question on our emotional sensibility and its need to us. The obvious answer will be yes, it is very essential attribute of being human. One need to be emotional to be human, will be the most common response. The next question that follows this will be, should we express our emotions publicly to let others be effected/influenced by them. Most of us will say intentional display of emotions is usually bad. Now comes the bigger question that if any form of art effect you emotionally, is it doing as bad a job as a person doing to get some attachment and sympathy for his/her cause. Here the question becomes complex because our definitions of art and emotions may vary and our tolerance limit towards may vary too and also art manipulating our emotions can be seen as its only effect on us. Art effect us, but the question here is, what is the actual need of it and if it effects us emotionally, how should it be doing that. Does art need to be emotionally extravagant to be effective.

First of all we all need to come to some basic definition of art. For me art is something that brings me closer to the truth that too not by any sort of spoon-feeding, but by giving subtle pointers which may result in innumerous interpretations, all of them as strong as the others and this ambiguity giving a thinking space and for me its the beauty of art, where we can paint colors ourselves giving subjectivity to absolute truth. So art need to give me space and should never close or capture me. Yet another way to define art is to say that it brings realities forth. One more addition to this definition is to include that art also brings forth alternate realities or may be fantasies or images of imagination.

We here revert back to our question of art effecting us emotionally and if so, is it right and if it is not, what else it could do. Showing a starving child from a third world country to squeeze emotions out of you, doesn't qualify for being an art, although its moving and does bring some reality with it. It's not like that I hate children, or I am too rich to hate poverty. Its probably because these images generate pity and sympathy in the most direct and useless form. These images can distort my face but can't change my mind. Now moving on to the final question, should art be detached. Now what I mean to say is not that art should be emotionally-sterile but should art raise itself above emotions . Should art create a mood or leave us under trance. Should not a real art let us decide ourselves of itself, not just guide us through a decided road map. Otherwise, being in vicinity of art will like being hypnotized, where not only you can't think and act, but the effect is gone once trance is lifted. But if art doesn't effect us emotionally how should it effect us. For me showing emotions in the name of art is not bad, but that should not be all. Floods of emotions blind us to see beyond them. I want web of feeling in my head not a thick rod to cut it through. These cutting edge rods work more for heart, and so all this emotional extravaganza will deeply effect you but you can't gain anything over and above it.

One more thing that comes up here is the questions of real or fake. To make it clear, I am not talking of any fake emotions. They don't deserve to be talked about. It is because it is not the emotions that are real or fake, it is the way they are used. A mother caring for his son, or a boy in love with a girl or even a girl bitching about the other, are all real emotions, but the cheap, easy and abundant way they are used, may cause all the embarrassment and hate towards them.

People have come up with several ways to deal with emotions. The first and the most commonly use way is to use them with restrain. The best example is Ritwik Ghatak's Meghe Dhaka Tara. It is a emotionally draining film where Ghatak rations emotions. Another way out is not to use them or to use them for name-sake. One of the example in this case is Fassbinder's Effi Briest. People call Effi Briest emotionally-restraint, but for me it went to a level of emotional-dryness, it do have a brief breakdown scene towards the end, after so much anguish and pain is faced by young Effi. Yet another way is to show emotions as usual but to show their fakeness side by side, the best example for this is Fassbinber's The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant. Bitter Tears is a story of a fashion designer, where Fassbinder breaks apart all noble emotions apart, giving Petra no respite till the mildly-hopeful end. Yet another way to deal with emotions is satire and comedy, one of a few movies that keep their intellectual ability intact and yet work as comedies include Bergman's Smiles of the Summer Night. It is a story of love and betrayal set in Swedish Summer. Yet another way to deal with emotions is detachment. One of the example for this is Jean-Luc Godard's Contempt. Its a highly intellectual movie, where you are detached as soon as you tend to attach with the film. A better example is Abbas Kiarostami's A Taste of Cherry, where in the end the lead character and director are shown talking to detach the viewer from the film and think above it.

Sometimes I think it could have relieved me immensely if Ozu had shown the Noriko on sets, chatting and laughing, or Fellini could have shown Cabiria smiling without tears on the set of the film. But on a second thought it looks like I enjoyed being mesmerized by them. But again, art is not all about enjoying it, its also about understanding it.


Anonymous said...

all art (or at least the art that matters) is a sensual experience. we are drawn to it by the need to pleasure ourselves. i definitely do not regard art as telling me anything significant about how to live. it has no didactic value to me from that perspective. in fact, i find the lives of most artists unenviable. i would even say that even the best art can confine the mind at the same time as it can expand it.

anurag said...

k, I agree that art should not be giving any direct didactic value, but I am not averse to any morality or points-of-thinking it imparts or invokes as a postmortem of things it shows. Probably for me, the after effect of art is more dear. Also art and artist can be seen detached, because if we only take art coming from a so-called 'good' artist, we are missing lot of intelligent art. Most of the lives are messed up but that should not deter us from comprehending them or the art coming from those lives.