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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

on art, life, and jean anouilh

“Life is very nice, but it has no shape. It is the purpose of art to give it shape.”
Jean Anouilh indirectly described a life that doesn’t need art for it to continue. However, all lives lived, being lived and will be lived on earth will never look apart from one another if they only have one binding characteristic that’s continuity. Life springs, flourishes and then meets its demise, so it means the pattern for all lives is similar: organic. Therefore, there is nothing to hold life down to define it more precisely in a way God is defined differently from nature, or state is defined differently from religion (although certain people argue that God and nature and state and religion can become one and the same). Without anything else to define life apart from being organic, it can be likened to space: shapeless, chaotic, dull. And whatever happens to lives that go on unprecedented toward their logical end without even taking shape, definition or excitement? They are boring, ordinary, unfulfilled.
It is nice to have life, why not? Without the need to argue with philosophers, I am way better than lifeless things, say, a pebble, a mineral or a cloud. But what makes my existence different from any if, as I mentioned above, my life is lived only to reach its predictable conclusion called death? Lacking the anticipated detours, speeding up or slowing down, my life can never be better defined than a mere passing. And this time, having always survived the ravages of time, the existence of the pebble, the mineral or the cloud is luckier because not transitory unlike mine.
That is why there is art to give meaning to life if only to bring it up to a higher level of definition. Whatever art one engages in, be it visual arts, literature, music, architecture, it is there to lend life some shape. Like water assuming the form of its container, life assumes a figure, because with art as life’s reflection, individuals can imagine their lives as forms of creation, production and reproduction. With this perception, they will be able to see life as meaningful, that they can dole excitement out of it, that far from life’s fatal predictability, it is actually capable of being immortalized through art that outlives their existence. Long after the artist is buried under the grave, his art is still very much studied, criticized, appreciated. The artist may not have lived long enough to see his art’s immortality, but he virtually lives as long as his art does.
This is especially true today when the modern world is basically a tug-of-war between the capitalist age and the technology age. The preoccupations, therefore, are reduced to how much more money can be generated from money, or how to make use of technology to make life better, notwithstanding the perceived failure of technology’s purpose in general. How does art figure in here, then? Art humanizes people when money and technology turn them into cold-blooded capitalists, alienated working class, or dehumanized technological rats. With art very much around in the contemporary times, life today can still be defined as exciting because art makes it rise out of the ordinariness of money and technology.
My own take on the interrelation of art and life is “life's an adventure and adventure is art.” I share an agreement with Anouilh because we both see life as an extraordinary journey because of its association with art. Human passion is often translated into art forms so a life which does make its passion transformed into art becomes beautiful because the road it takes as it exists is purposeful and not monotonous. It breaks the monotony of my life lived under the pressures of the capitalistic and technological world. Surrounded by the fleeting trends of modernity, I see my life extending beyond the temporal with art that, to paraphrase Anouilh, gives it outline, beauty and humanity.

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