Cognitive Pearl #054 Adar 12, 5775 March 3, 15

In previous posts, I spoke of artistic expression as a means to assert or reassert control over a phenomena or an experience. The artist intentionally distorts and exaggerates and becomes the teller of the experience.

This is all fine and good for the artist. What about us, the spectators? What happens to us when we experience art? How does experiencing someone else’s art help us?  

In order to make some sense of this, it’s helpful to think about stories. It seems obvious that consciousness is the story or stories that we tell ourselves about what we experience. We don’t simply drink a cup of coffee; we tell ourselves a story about drinking a cup of coffee. There is plot, narrative, props, protagonists, and antagonists all woven into the feeling of a seamless story, which is woven into a greater story of who we are and what we do. 

These stories are not only what we experience (or tell ourselves) they are what we tell each other. From its most basic and elemental to it’s most profound, human communication is story telling. A baby’s cry is not just a cry; for the parent it’s a tale of need and desperation that he or she is swept into, captives of their devotion and care.

Art then in all of its forms is story; in images, sound, flavor, dance, and whatever form it takes art tells us a story, potentially sweeping us along. For some, that story can mean nothing (I’m thinking of trips to the Metropolitan Museum of Art when I was a little boy: boooorrriingg!!!!) or literally evoke a transcendental experience.