“Art cannot change the world, but it can contribute to changing the consciousness and drives of the men and women who could change the world.” Herbert Marcuse
For as far as we can track human presence on planet Earth, art seems to be a part of our lives, defining our cultures and identities. It proposes a universal and timeless language genuinely communicating through emotions —rather than transmitting thoughts alone. As Leo Tolstoy embodied in his book What is Art?, “In order to define art correctly it is necessary first of all to cease to consider it as a means to pleasure, and to consider it as one of the conditions of human life. Viewing it in this way we cannot fail to observe that art is one of the means of intercourse between man and man…”.
Albeit the great influence of art on human’s lives is indisputable and even after centuries of meditations and investigation, the purpose, function and position of art is still not clear.
For instance, Carl Gustav Jung noticed that “art intuitively apprehends coming changes in the collective unconsciousness”, which indwelled by universal symbols, represents a significant portion of individuals’ lives and experiences. More recently, Alain de Botton, suggested that art could be considered as a tool for compensating our mind’s weaknesses and help us transcend our natural capacities. According to Eckhart Tolle’s perspective, art can be “a portal, an access point for the sacred”, our inner self. He emphasizes the importance of not just creating works of art but becoming the work of art, implicating one’s life and being.
However, in modern societies, the economic aspect of arts and culture is overshadowing all the other values they have to offer and therefore, endangering them to be reduced to insignificant entertainment and investment items and vehicles. Yet, today more than ever, art could play an essential role for fulfilled lives and harmonious societies, simply serving as a vehicle of union among men outwardly and inwardly.
L’Art et L’Humain, recently founded in France, is a non-profit association reposing on the belief that art stands for greater purposes and holds a greater place in people’s lives than they are aware of. The association endeavours to explore, exploit and transcend the deepest functions and effects of art on humans’ individual and collective lives, rethinking why art matters for men and women.