It is easy to under-appreciate the power of art.
We tend to see it as a pastime or merely a form of entertainment and relaxation—something to do when the real work is done.
And art is those things.
It can be a fulfilling hobby, endlessly entertaining. With the rise in popularity of adult colouring books, the relaxation/mindful applications that art can provide are evidently becoming clear.
But more than this, as history show us, art is a conduit for change on a mass scale.
It is a way to take the truth—good, bad or ugly—and translate it into a form that makes it accessible beyond reason. Accessible to the part of ourselves that looks at a situation and tries, despite our human flaws, to let the truth come through.
We feel art, instinctively, and that feeling transforms us over and over again.
Each song we listen to, each piece of dance we witness, each story we read changes us—some more obviously than others. They impact us and can live inside us for a lifetime, helping us determine who we are, as we try to get over the ego of human existence and baggage we accumulate from society.
Today, David Bowie has died.
As soon as I checked my phone this morning I was overwhelmed with exclamations of sadness and shock. We mourn the loss of someone who has provided an experience of music that is completely its own—one that will vibrate forever into the future to impact someone, even 100 years from now, in the same way that we are impacted today.
It’s the same reason Mozart is still so transformative today.
Bowie is a perfect example of art as a way to seek personal identity.
He was his own person. He explored who he was, not letting gender or class define him, but finding his own identity and then sharing it in his music. Challenging norms and the status quo, he celebrated his individuality.
He participated in a conversation that has been happening between artists since the first piece of art was created. All art is a dialogue that has run between cultures and time periods. No artist stands alone but is speaking the part of the conversation they were born into.
When an artist creates they are speaking from their time and place. They are responding to the art they have experienced from the past and are giving voice to the hopes and fears we all face in the future. It is impossible to create art that is unattached to the world around it.
All art is a political act.
Artists are the ones courageous enough to “turn and face the strange changes” of our time and place.
This is what we have lost with Bowie, and every artist who has died before him.
We lose eyes that can see clearly into their own hearts. We lose ears that can hear the footsteps of change and we lose voices that sing out with the beauty the world has to offer.
But we have a lot of these voices speaking out still, creating art and doing their best to transform our world.
And you have that power inside of you too. High art. Low art. These are labels humans have created to capitalise off art, but any act of creation is an act of culture and has inherent value that no one can take away.
So, go. Put on a Bowie album. Make a piece of art.
Join the conversation.
Even if it is the only piece of art you ever make. Take pride that you expressed something for all of humanity.
“We could be heroes just for one day.”
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Author & Artist: Mike Medaglia
Editor: Khara-Jade Warren