The Poetry Question

Discovering the Relevance of Words

Art for Art’s Sake

It was 2003 and I was a freshman in high school sitting in my mandatory fine arts class. This was the first time I heard the phrase “art for art’s sake.” As I sat daydreaming about whoever my crush of the week was, I came out of my comatose state to respond to the definition of the phrase with, “well that’s just dumb.” The idea of doing art just to do it made no sense to me. After about a minute of thinking about it I dove back into my mental collage of video games, girls, and how I was going to someday be famous. Several years passed and not much has changed. I’m still filling time with video games, my wife, and finding a way to be famous. However, the arts went from a mandatory class to an integrated part of my life. Poetry and music occupy a large part of my time and mental space. Recently, I have even changed my mind on my oh-so-educated 9th grade opinion on art for art’s sake.

We live in a very exciting time where many people are working toward change. One of the major avenues for this have been the arts. In music many bands have a cause they openly support at shows or sometimes even heavily use the topics in their music. One of the most moving parts of performance poetry is often when someone has a vision or social issue that is heavily weighing on their hearts which leads to innovative and passionate art. These are all fantastic things that truly play a role in shaping our cultures and mentalities. Not only is this important for our society but it is important for us as individuals too, for healing, for growing, and ultimately for creating. However, these are not the only reasons for someone to produce a piece of art.

Equally important, is having fun. Now, in no way am I saying the aforementioned style or artists aren’t having fun but that “having a good time and seeing what happens” isn’t their top priority. Some of the most fun pieces I’ve witnessed had heavy topics or points of origin. What I’m saying is there are some artists who aren’t motivated by issues in their lives. With so many of their peers having many hard hitting topics they often times then feel like lack of struggle somehow strips away their right to create. In working with teens this is the most common issue I run into. Somewhere along the line they were told or shown that you can’t just make something because you want to or because you’re good at it. Making something for fun does not automatically void it of meaning. Often times in poetry slams, some of the most well received poems are those that are just funny and simply came from someone wanting to be entertaining. No undertones, no metaphors, just a funny poem that was written because it could be. These are often appreciated because some people in the room don’t need to be called to action, or reminded of the shit storm of things they’ll be walking into after this event, but what they do need is to laugh.

This offers not only a variety in a show or genre but also opens up more access points to a particular art form for people who may not have considered giving it a chance. A poem about how much someone enjoyed their bagel this morning has no less value as a piece of art than someone’s poem about puppy mills. I was once told by a professor that while we may have a meaning in mind when creating something, it is ultimately up to the one on the receiving end to find what that meaning is. The point is you created something you want, you did it to the best of your abilities and you’re proud to share it. So go right now, pick up your metaphorical weapon of choice and just make something. If not for me then do it for art’s sake.

About Cristopher Gibson

Cristopher Gibson is a writer and performance poet residing in St. Paul. He is a member of the 2013 Soap Boxing Slam Team, one half of the poet duo Sharkhooks (w/ Lewis Mundt), show curator, and published his first chapbook under local Beard Poetry in March of 2013. He often works with youth and college students to develop writing skills of all styles and spends too much time playing video games, cuddling with puppies he doesn't own, and convincing his wife he will one day have super powers.

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This entry was posted on July 9, 2013 by in COMMENTARY.

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