As a lifestyle, art is not sustainable—at least not the way we do it today. Artists are expected to make a living doing something else, and then do their art on their own time with their own money, which we then integrate into our lives without ever realizing how important it is to us.
There isn’t a single person alive who has not at some point smiled at a picture, cried at a movie, swayed to a song, or filled quiet moments with a good book. We need these things as much as we need air, water, food and shelter. Because without them, we have only air, water, food and shelter. Picture that world, if you can.
As an exercise, try a day without art to see what you would miss. Here is a life quiz you can try:
1) Life without music: Turn off your radio, mp3 player, TV, video games, Wii, and don’t go to the movies—because even commercials have music. Don’t sing out loud in the shower or hum in your head. Don’t go to ballgames, supermarkets, or stores of any kind. Don’t buy lottery tickets or gas, as they play music at the pumps. Oh, and don’t take elevators or get your teeth cleaned.
2) Life without stories (novels, screenplays, poems, and nonfiction): Don’t read the paper when you get up, or magazines. Don’t take a book to work, or listen to the radio, watch TV (including the news and reality TV). Don’t gossip, or talk to friends or family except to ask or answer yes/no questions. Don’t sing songs (you can listen to instrumental music as long as it isn’t associated with a movie, video game or TV show). Don’t write anything (including emails) or read letters or postcards (you can read your bills). Don’t bother camping, because what would you do at night? It’s probably not a good idea to have kids or family of any kind.
3) Life without film, photography, and TV: Obviously, don’t watch any movies or TV, but don’t talk about a character or situation from one, and don’t think about it, either. Don’t listen to the radio, because they talk about TV, and don’t read magazines that talk about films or TV (if you can think of one). Forget magazines or newspapers. No internet surfing. Don’t read contemporary novels, because the characters all make references to movies and TV. Don’t read blogs (this is minefield of movies and TV, and usually has photos). Don’t play video games, as they are all based on movie concepts and use the same technology and storytelling formats.
4) Life without fine art (drawing, painting, sculpture): Don’t look at anything on a bus, go to a mall, or read a sign. Don’t watch TV or an animated movie (or the credits to any movie or TV show). Don’t look at cereal boxes, milk cartons, or write a check (most have designs). Don’t look at anything packaged, as it is likely to have a logo or design. The internet is completely off-limits! So are video games, Wii-fit, and picture books. You can listen to music, but don’t look at the album cover. Don’t look at furniture, wallpaper, or anything painted. Don’t walk through a garden. Don’t go to museums and art galleries, obviously, but also skip boutiques, grocery stores, and stores in general, as they usually have murals. If you find one that doesn’t, don’t look at anything on the racks. Don’t go into any room that is painted. Don’t cross a bridge or drive a highway that has one. Be careful what you sit on, stand on, walk through, or look at.
Pick one of these and try it for a day to see what life would really be like. Try not singing your kids to sleep or telling them a bedtime story, or letting them watch Thomas the Tank Engine. Try cooking without recipe cards or the internet. Try spending time with friends without talking about anything art related (see above).
Life without art would be dark and quiet. You would get up and get dressed. You could go for a walk in a beautiful spot, but you can’t take a picture or sing a song, or tell anyone else about it. At work, you could not do anything creative, just the same thing day after day. At the end of the day, you come home, make your dinner, and sit quietly until bedtime. And when you turn the lights out, try not to picture anything, hear a song, or tell yourself a story. This is life without art.
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