It’s Not the Art, It’s How You Use It.February 19th, 2016
A painting may be art, but art is not a painting.
Clear as mud? Let’s look closer.
Art is made up of two parts: the tool and the purpose. If you have just one or the other, it’s not art. Use the tool without a purpose and you get a nail in a board; add a purpose and you have a place to hang your coat. Boom, it’s carpentry! To further flog the metaphor, purpose without a tool is an unfulfilled idea, a song that will go to its grave never being sung.
Art is not a result–it’s not a painting or a statue or a song; rather, it’s a diverse set of tools which can be used to serve a great many purposes. One such tool is painting, the purpose of which can be any number of things: decorating, selling, defaming, informing, documenting, rebelling or inciting. The same can be said for the tools of sculpting and writing.
Theatre is a multi-tool, a combination of tools that includes writing, designing and acting, to list a few. Just like a painting, it can serve many purposes. But what are those purposes? Is it okay for each individual participant to have his or her own purpose? Is the purpose dictated by the company, the playwright or the director? This idea of the purpose being separate from the tool raises a lot of questions to which I don’t have answers (if you have an answer, leave it in a comment below).
I think the most important question is: do you have a purpose at all?
Be brutally honest with yourself. If the first thing that comes to your mind feels disingenuous, then dig deeper. Find an answer, then prove yourself wrong by finding a better answer; find many different answers. If you don’t go into every rehearsal or production meeting with one of those conjured purposes in mind, then there is a wealth of greater potential lost within you. Not to say that you’re not already great at your job–you may be fantastic at your job.
The difference is coming home at the end of four days of tech rehearsal and being exhausted to the bone instead of exhausted to the soul; tired bones will recover with a little rest, but tired souls begin to question why they’re doing this in the first place. The soul that already knows the answer isn’t exhausted from all the work, it’s energized, inspired, encouraged. Your body is beaten, but your soul is glowing.
If you want to give your all in the eleventh hour when your back aches, you’re out of breaks and your bank is in the in the red, then find a greater purpose than to buy a loaf of bread. Stop leaving boards with nails around and make some art instead.
Here’s Nina Simone’s purpose. Yours doesn’t have to be the same. Maybe you like telling stories, and you do so because it makes people happy. That works, too.