Art and Society
Humans have various forms of communicating and expressing themselves and they combine to define our interactions with others as well as our experiences. As for me, art has always been a central part of how I relate to the world since I was little. It has influenced my perception of life, my relation to others, and what I expect from others too. This paper looks at how art has influenced my personal experience as well as my relationship with others.
Art is an important part of my identity both as a Korean and as a woman. I have always felt a strong identity to myself as a woman and as a Korean, and in my elementary school I discovered Korean traditional dance that I practiced through high school. In that time, I participated in many large dance events and festivals all over Korea. Dancing also enables me to express my inner feelings such as desire, melancholy, anxiety, eagerness, and passion. Through dancing, I am able to forget the minute worries of this world and transform to a place where I am at one with the world. Moreover, it enables me to reminisce my culture, and I feel like an ancient Korean woman who does not have to worry about modern issues.
When I moved to the United States to study, putting my energy into Korean Dance was not as easy as it had been in Korea due to time and resource constraints. Additionally, I spent most of my time exploring the world around me and learning about the traditions and cultures of my fellow classmates and thus did not have enough time for the dance. However, I still had a strong artistic drive that led me to pick up painting with the same zeal that I had given dancing. After exploring a wide variety of mediums, I fell in love with acrylics. My reason for choosing acrylics is that it is very similar to dancing since the fluidity of one’s movement is synonymous to the fluidity one needs to paint on canvas.
Another way in which dancing and painting are similar is that both need strict attention to detail. One needs to be focused throughout, as missing a single movement and moment will either ruin a routine or canvas, thus the skill of observation and attention to detail learned during dancing were important in painting. The same expressivity that I had in dance was transferred to my painting, which has been described by my teacher as rich in oriental complexity. This is rather different from Korean culture which values stoicism and emotions are only expressed subtly. Painting thus became my new form of dance, and it has taken over as my favorite form of expression and communication.
My family has been supportive of me throughout my endeavors, and my mother, in particular, has been a pillar and a role model. I believe that I picked my artistic soul from her, as she is a floral designer, something that she taught me to do. Besides my mother who I would love to emulate in all aspects, my father is also a chief inspiration. He is my best friend and hero, always there to talk to whenever I need help or advice. I also have a brother who annoys me at every instance and we are constantly fighting. He is sometimes cruel to me, but I know that he means well and cares about me, and despite our differences, I love him very much. This family has been my backbone and support without whom I would not have made it this far.
There are many things I consider dear in my life. Having a family is an important part of Korean culture, and thus I would love to be a wife and mother someday. I would also love to continue with my artistic hobbies and traditions. I have also undergone many experiences that have impacted on my life. Holding exhibitions both individually and in collaboration with other people has been a huge achievement for me as it has enabled other people to appreciate my talents and what I have to say about the world. Studying in America is, however, the best experience of my life as it has enabled me to escape the heartbreaks and restrictions of my life. In America, I have had the opportunity to learn English and explore life away from the scrutiny of my parents and relatives, hence making me stronger in the process.
Art has thus enabled me understand other people better, as well as discover things I did not know about myself. In some paintings, for example, I imagine the life of a Korean woman and I picture her life, struggles, and challenges she has gone through, and I interlink these with my own experiences. These emotions are then shown through my fingers, feet, and facial expressions as well as in my brushstrokes. Dancing and artwork thus enable me see myself in another light and I am able to ask myself questions and get answers, which is important for self-development.
The Reenchantment of Art
The world is constantly evolving, and today there is a new narrative being created that threatens to change the history of art as well as the foundations of modern aesthetic practice. Today’s world idolizes freedom, and this freedom is dependent on affluence which is in turn based on consumerism. These consumeristic appeals are based on the notions of self which have been developed over the ages, but this may be changing as globalization and an intermixing of cultures change the social paradigm.
Modernist attitudes value the notions of individualism and independence. People are so engrossed in getting what they want that the values of the community are forgotten. The notions of individualism have been particularly present in today’s capitalistic world that values individual accomplishments and people are constantly competing (Gablik). Everything today thus revolves around money, and individuals do things to make money, even creating art. Today, many artists mix different styles of art to find the most visually appealing one without considering the aesthetic appeal and implications to the society, and this commodification of art has led to the proliferation of the number of art houses and auctions.
Today’s culture thus no longer borrows from the society; artists base their art on personal ideas and motives of self-survival. They no longer care about portraying the society they live in through their art and deem the society and environment as objects for manipulation and exploitation to make ends meet. The commodification of art has led to a conflict between society and art and a shift in the history of art. Presently, commoditized art is considered art, while art that holds social meanings is often disregarded.
The commoditization of art is a representation of the chaos in today’s society that has allowed social ills to spread unabated. People only care about making ends meet, and that is why things like corruption, stealing, and crime are so common, and the public does not cry foul at their perpetration. People do not even care to know their neighbors, and only interact with the people they think can be beneficial to their lives. Just like art has distanced itself from its history of depicting the realities of society so has personal experiences differed from the traditional notions of community and society. Today’s generation is thus intrinsically selfish and motivated by economics just like today’s art has been commoditized.
The meaning and influence of art have also been watered down, and people today do not value the psychological or political message present in art. This, in turn, has impacted on the way we view art; today art is not made to hold meaning, rather hold economic value. This is why art including paintings have become an alternative way of holding material wealth for many people and collectors. We thus do not enjoy art in the traditional way, and this is also reflected in how we perceive life; today people live to make money and consume, and happiness, as well as moral values, are sacrificed as a result.
The modern youth is, however, beginning to realize that there is more to life than this consumerism, and the notion of self-advancement is waning. People are becoming more connected and beginning to live as a community, and this affects how people identify themselves. Many people have now picked art as a way of expressing their emotions, and thus identifying with their cultures and their self. Ideas for art are also picked from what is happening in the community, thus enabling people to identify easily with situations and peers (Ware). As an example, modern art fuses elements from different genres, elements, and nations, so that it is not unlikely to see a Chinese art drawing a painting of Jesus using renaissance Europe styles. The globalization of art has also led to the phenomenon of global citizens; people who identify with multiple cultures and situations around the world.
Globalization has thus shaped our thinking on art and how we perceive ourselves. In addition, the modern generation is educated on various aspects including art and culture, and can thus enjoy it in ways that earlier generations of illiterate people could not. Globalization and education have not only affected art and communication but also how intergenerational thinking. Today, for example, the notion of sustainability is central to many debates due to issues such as the gender equality, ecological degradation, and climate change. Today’s art is filled with depictions of these elements, unlike in the past when wars were the constant of many art forms, a product of the conflicts that have ravaged history. As history keeps rewriting itself, so will the issues that will be of importance to the globe.
In conclusion, there are many ways in which we express ourselves, and they have an impact on our experiences and our relationships with others. Personally, I have always loved dancing and painting, which have been the way I connect with the world around me. Art gives me a feeling of freedom as well as a connection to those around me. These feelings are not unique to me as throughout the world many people are beginning to realize the interconnection between art and the society. Today’s consumerist culture is being replaced by the world where expression and connections are highly valued. Art is also changing to reflect these shift in ideas, thus it can be said that art is a reflection not only of society but also of our true selves.
Gablik, Suzi. The Reenchantment of Art. London: Thames and Hudson, 1992. Print.
Ware, Linda. “When Art Informs: Inviting Ways to See the Unexpected.” Learning Disability Quarterly (2011): 194-202. Print.