For this post, I want to bring together photos from my family experience of art – ceremony & ‘making-special’ – with text from theorist Ellen Dissanayake’s paper The Core of Art: Making Special.
(This paper, The Core of Art, also appears as chapter 4 in Dissanayake’s book Homo Aestheticus: Where Art Came From and Why.)
Published by Free Press in 1992.
What follows here are images of some of the ART that is our family. You and your family also make ART.
A great deal of my research is about attempting to show that art does not look for a “genius”, or simply come from those with “the touch”. It is not reserved for those somehow more special then the rest of us. Rather, as theorist Ellen Dissanayake has written, the core of art is rather, how we make special. It is about intention.
“The word art as used before the late eighteenth century meant what we would today call “craft” or “skill” or “well-madeness,” and could characterize any object or activity made or performed by human (rather than natural or divine) agency—for example, the art of medicine, of retailing, of holiday dining. “(p.14)
Big or small, we put a lot of care and making into the special times that bring us together as families, and as communities – the things that make us who we are- we are living our art, we are writing our stories, every time we make a day ‘extra ordinary’ (more then ordinary).
“Art, like play, was something extra, an embellishment, an enhancement to life.” (p.18)
“Life Is Better With You” – a song written by Michael Franti
but you make it feel like most of the time,
when I’m all alone with you.
Pickin up pieces of my life,
sometimes there’s ones I just can’t find,
but they found a home with you.
Some days are better than other days,
but these days, life is better with you.
Some days are better than other days,
these days, life is better with you.
Life is better.
Tell me what you want, I’ll give you all
that you need with my heart and my hands,
sayin please baby please because nobody does
that thing you do better than you.
Thoughts still swimmin round in my head
with all the words we’ve ever said.
My favorites remain, “I love you.”
“Ritual ceremonies and the arts are socially reinforcing, uniting their participants and their audiences in one mood. They both provide an occasion for feelings of individual transcendence of the self—what Victor Turner (1969) calls communitas and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (1975) calls “flow”—everyone shares in the same occasion of patterned emotion. For a time, the hard edges of their customary isolation from each other are softened or melted together or their everyday taken-for-granted comradeship is reinforced.” [..]
“Apart from the many similarities that ritual and art share as general “behaviors,” they are virtually always linked together in practice. During ritual ceremonies one invariably finds the arts: the use of beautiful or arresting objects, the wearing of specially decorated attire, music, visual display, poetic language, dance, performances.”(p.21)
I’ll never forget the sunny august afternoon in 2003 that my husband and I got married. One beautiful moment – in an afternoon full of beautiful moments – two of my dearest middle-school friends sung to us the song, I Could Write a Book.
I still remember the first afternoon, (that one rainy, and set years earlier in Vancouver) when I first heard Dinah Washington’s recording of this song. Feelings of love for my then boyfriend came flooding over my heart as the radio played on through my headphones and I rode the bus towards the school where I was studying art.
“How to make two lovers of friends..” this line from the song remains stuck with me – stuck to me. It carries stronger emotional weight then the rest; the singer is explaining how, if only they could write a book, they would tell a story – tell their story- of how to make two lovers of friends. Even back then, these lines seemed telling to me. To write ones own book – the message that to create a life; to ‘make- special’ ones life – would require participation of the gutsy, sparkling, boundless, courageous, sensitive, imaginative, forgiving, artful sort. It struck me – the message – that lyrics are not definitive. They don’t say “I would write the book”, nor ‘the’ story. Instead the author sings about how they would write “a book”, one-unique-story among thousands of other stories..
Write our ‘book’ – Make our ‘special’ – make our “extra ordinary” life.
We all make our art.
“The radical position that I [E. Dissanayake] offer here as a species-centered view of art is that it is not art (with all its burden of accreted connotations from the past two centuries) but making special that has been evolutionarily or socially and culturally important. That is to say, until recent times in the West, what has been of social, cultural, and individual evolutionary importance in any art or “work of art” has been its making something special that is important to the species, society, or culture. There is no need to decide whether a theater or concert.” (p.29)
Make your art.
Live your art.
No one else has, and no one else can..