Thursday, January 27, 2022

The greatest art often makes us uncomfortable

By Dan White – Special to the Sydenham Current

Well, it was a promising start to the New Year.

Our quintet did a little impromptu gig at the Civic Park in Wallaceburg a few days before Christmas.

There was a plan for a winter artwalk in Chatham, the Wallaceburg Arts Council was looking at possible concerts in the coming months, theatres were inviting guests in… and now, once again, FULL STOP.

Doing a concert, or live performance of any kind cannot just ramp up, nor can it be cancelled without stress and probable negative financial consequences.

It takes months to plan a live event and a great deal of effort.

After the last series of lockdowns the live entertainment industry was finally released from restrictions that made planning impossible and was coming to life in time for the holiday season and optimistically planning events for the coming months.

Now those events are all once more suspended.

I had a meeting tonight with the Chatham Kent Arts and Culture Network and the fatigue is palpable by our local artists and arts venues.

If, and the past two years have confirmed that this is a big IF, but if the lockdown ends in late January as promised, arts venues and artists may be able to get things back in shape by late spring to offer live entertainment.

I understand that the ability to perform at or attend a live performance pales in comparison to the health of society and the overall well being.

I do.

But for the first time in three years of submitting this column I struggled to write tonight.

I could just stop here and leave a blank page and argue that a blank page is actually art.

But I doubt Dana would find that a valuable use of this space.

I have been involved in the arts for most of my life and I have often had a discussion with colleagues, students, friends and people I have served on boards with about what is art, censorship and its role and the value of art.

What constitutes art is a very difficult thing to identify as one person may look at a block of wood and see it as moving and powerful while another sees nothing more than a block of wood.

To the second person it is not art, it is just an identifiable substance that cannot be creative or original, it is a thing, not art.

But censorship, well, that is a far more challenging topic to broach in the arts.

Many great artists have had people or powers try to stop them from creating and getting exposure for their works because their work was so different from what was standard or common.

Pushing the envelope often makes people uncomfortable and that can become a tricky dance for artists.

Great artists often do not care if the work they create stirs deep emotions in society, many actually seek to mine this vein.

I would argue that the greatest art often makes us uncomfortable as it challenges long held comfortable beliefs or the collective willingness to turn a blind eye.

Sometimes it is good to have your sense of what is normal exfoliated.

Great art holds a mirror up to society and asks, “What do you see?”

Maybe Dana will run that blank page and we can ponder what we see in the emptiness where words usually wander.

Stay safe, be kind, and when the arts return to our lives… get out there and support them any way you can.

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