Some like to think that a keen appreciation of art can actually make us better people - more just, more moral, more sensitive, more understanding. Perhaps that is true - in certain rare, isolated cases. But let us not forget that Hitler started out in life as an artist. Tyrants and dictators read novels. Killers in prison read novels. And who is to say they don't derive the same enjoyment from books as everyone else?
In other words, art is useless, at least when compared, say, to the work of a plumber, or a doctor, or a railroad engineer. But is uselessness a bad thing? Does a lack of practical purpose mean thatbooks and paintings and string quartets are simply a waste of our time? Many people think so. But I would argue that it is the very uselessness of art that gives it its value and that the making of art is what distinguishes us from all other creatures who inhabit this planet, that it is, essentially, what defines us as human beings.
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
In The Observer, Paul Auster argues that art is 'useless' - in a good way.