Humanity seems to preoccupy itself with being “right” about, well, everything. When one is proven “right,” we marvel at one’s ability to be “right,” and we scorn the sea of “wrongness” that has been obliterated by the “right” that proved it “wrong.”
This phenomenon assumes further, that if “right” can be found in one thing, then “right” must be found in other things, if not all things. Moreover, if “right” exists, then “wrong” must also exist where “right” is absent, which naturally leads to the notion that if “right” is to be accepted, then “wrong” is to be rejected.
“Right” is superior and “wrong” is inferior. Therefore, all should strive for “right.”
I’m fairly certain that rational human beings can agree on certain “rights,” “wrongs,” perceived “truths,” and “falsities” on a basic, seemingly universal level, none of which need to be discussed or mentioned here.
This culture of “right-ism,” as I call it, seeps into virtually every facet of the human experience. I take issue especially with religious “right-ism,” since most of the major religions of the world pride themselves on how “right” they are about their faith, and often impose that faith on others in order to correct the other’s “errors.”
Naturally some disciplines necessitate it, but strangely, the culture of “right-ism” is alive and active in the arts. If any discipline should avoid universal shoulds and shouldn’ts, it should be the arts. And yet, artists and consumers of art operate in a dogmatic, absolutist way that is akin to the religious “right-ism” mentioned above.
Understandably, artists are passionate about their art, and those who subscribe to a particular artistic creed are passionate about that creed. That’s all fine. Where it goes awry is when one’s artistic proclivities become a platform upon which one seeks to judge the value of art which may not agree with their particular philosophy.
Issues of judgmental-ism aside, art is the one bastion in which human expression needs not be confined, limited, or restricted by a third party. The range of expression is defined by the artist and his/her art. That’s it.
Consequently, I wish there were a way to help all of us understand that . . .
- our passion for what we do is our own, and even if others might have a similar passion, it will never be the same from individual to individual,
- artistic expression is highly personal (even if its intention is to be impersonal), and the way that a person experiences another person’s expression is, and always will be, a personal imposition on the artist’s expression (it’s inevitable),
- “other” art, no matter how disagreeable or valueless it may be to one’s own predispositions, is agreeable and valuable to those who create and partake in it.
My hope is that one day, we in the arts can genuinely support and encourage one another, especially because we exist in a small, vulnerable community. Let’s remember that being an artist is not about being “right,” it’s about being human; and as we know, being human is laced with an infinite number of ironies and contradictions.