In our left-brained Western world, there is a deeply severed connection to the art experience. The scaffolding of our global society is built around a large appetite for material possession, accumulation of wealth, and an unsatisfiable hunger for power and control; all external escapades that cripples humanity’s potential to its knees.
The ideals of our society promote false, but guaranteed happiness in objects and status, telling us not to see worth in that which is intangible. Our societal conditioning has allowed us to hyper-focus on obtaining possessions and all things outside of ourselves, so much so that we are starved of authentic experiences that bring true joy.
The most significant societal ill of our time is that of an inherent dissatisfaction with one’s life and the uncertainty and insecurity to change it. With a misguided focus on the material world, we begin to disregard the internal, inner artist experience. By exploring what the art experience is, we can gain personal insight to the value of art and its place in society.
The creation of art, or to view art as an act of creation, is an expression of our relationship with ourselves. In order to understand its effect on society, we must look at our personal relationship with art first. Art doesn’t need the unsatisfiable material desires of the ego to exist. Art in its rawest form is purely a state of being— an experience of emotion, a response and reflection of our interaction with life. The desire to make art arises out of our most primitive instinct to create. Art is the earliest form off our specie’s existence and the most basic expression of our human identity. Art is what sets us apart from the animal kingdom and its value is a priceless achievement of our existence.
Our societal imbalance of left-brained thinking leaves little room to place value on art, directing our attention to frivolous matters. Because we do not see art as worthy of our attention, we suppress our innermost nature to grow through creative expression. Societal conditioning has worked aggressively to silence our inherent urge to create. Not only does this cause us to lose connection with our truest selves, but its effects result in an emotionally confused society that priorities wealth over genuine, integral happiness.
Art can be perceived through an infinite filter of lenses as a kaleidoscope of different experiences of life and outlooks on the world. Through exploring and experimenting with art, whether in viewing or creating it, we can play with different ideas and expand upon our own perspectives on life. If we view art as a mirror to our souls, we can use its reflection to gain wisdom and inspiration to our own endeavors. Not only does this provide room for personal growth, but it pushes society to grow and expand as well. We can learn many things about ourselves through art in our personal lives and as the collective human species.
Each piece of work exposed in galleries and museums gives insight of a unique personal experience during any given era of history. The museum is a treasure chest of humanity’s collective experiences, spanning throughout centuries of our existence and providing a spectrum of human expression. Art collections use artifacts and images to define the subtle components of our cultural and social identity.
We can also compare previous societal ideals to those of modern society, reflecting upon previous belief systems and its role in the growth and development of a society. Not only does this allow us to reinterpret the beliefs and values of modern society, but it can also work towards shifting into a new perspective. Through museums, we can peek into a glimpse of our past through an individual or societal lens, to reveal profound insights on self-actualization. On both macro and micro levels of analysis, the museum can help us understand personal and societal shifts through pivotal moments in history that provoked a massive leaps in evolutionary expansion. This role in itself can allow us to look at current shift in social trends and help us to channel social expansionism into a positive, sustainable direction.
Society expands and evolves through art, which is only evident through retrospect. Art history and museology shed light on previously established standards of living, cultural values and its function in society. Each artifact in a museum comes from a time and a place that no longer exists. The museum is a gateway into discovering and understanding of our past, our identity as the human species and acts as a catalyst in relating to our inner selves. Whatever an artifact may be— jewelry, books, advertisements, poetry, paintings, sculptures— it tells a unique story of experience, whether personal or societal. Just like the discovery of a dusty box in the attic of mom’s house, the museum is a keepsake of humanity’s childhood memories. The goldmine of a museum’s archives help us to understand life as it once was, allowing us to put the puzzle pieces of our past together.
We can gain a great deal of wisdom and knowledge through the art experience, whether in creating our own art or viewing that of another. Delving into the art world is, in essence, diving into one’s own water well of creative potential. As the artist’s of our own lives, we have the power to make our lives a true masterpiece. Our resistance to art is an ultimate resistance with ourselves and life itself. Perhaps the value of art is misunderstood because the purpose of life is misunderstood, or because that which has true value cannot be sought in the material world. The art experience cannot be bought, it must be lived. By shifting our personal value on the worth of art, we can simultaneously work towards shifting the rigid beliefs on art in society.
The most pressing societal issues today are deeply rooted in the avoidance to our own expressive abilities. By viewing art as an essential component to the healing process of our own lives, many of societies burdens will follow suit. We can use the museum as a pool of resources to deepen our relationship with ourselves and how that relationship navigates society, resulting in a collective transformation of societal happiness.