A Safe Distance

Because in general we approach the arts and entertainment from outside, because we go to art, we regard it as external to the main part of our life. We go to the theatre, to the cinema, the opera, the ballet; to museums; to sports fields (for a part of all great games is as much art as theatre or ballet).

Even our reading is outside the main occupations of our day; and even the art that is piped into our homes we feel comes from outside.

If we consign art to the leisure outprovinces of our lives, and even there experience it mostly in some indirect form, it becomes a mere aspect of good living - that is, a matter of facts, not feeling; of placing, of showing off cultural knowledge; of identifying and collecting.

[John Fowles]
The Aristos ('The Importance of Art'), p.199, 200

When the chief fields for intellectual expression and the main channels for the stating of personal views of life were theology and philosophy, the artist was able to remain in closer contact with a public.

But now that art has become the chief mode of stating self, now that the theologian-philosopher is metamorphosed into the artist, an enormous gap has sprung.

The only person who might have stopped this schism between the artist and the non-artist are the critics. But the more obscure and the more ambiguous a work of art the more need there is for interpreters. There are thus excellent professional reasons for critics to encourage the schism.

[John Fowles]
The Aristos ('The Importance of Art'), p.198

Hence, the ceremonies of personal crisis are prototypically dramatic in two related ways. They affirm the human struggle for values within a social setting, while confirming individual identity in the face of ordinary "existential" situations such as death or puberty. These ceremonial dramas, then, constitute a shaping, and an acting out of the raw materials of life.

All primitives have their brilliant moments on this stage, each becomes the focus of attention by the mere fact of his humanity; and in the light of the ordinary-extraordinary events, his kinship to others is clarified.

Moreover, these ritual dramas, based on the typical crisis situations, seem to represent the culmination of all primitive art forms; they are, perhaps, the primary form of art, around which cluster most of the aesthetic artifacts of primitive society - the masks, poems, songs, myths, above all the dance, that quintessential rhythm of life and culture.

[Stanley Diamond]
'Plato and the Primitive'

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