Tuesday, November 30, 2010

How art can expose reality

In this society I am presented with the idea of creating my own existence, answering the questions of "Who am I?", "Why am I here?", "What is my reality?". Here we can be faced with existentialism - the idea of self description, self meaning where we can create our own reality. An interesting concept and far from Christianity and yet so close to the mirror of our society now.

Then in steps Francis Bacon, a painter that is partly dressed in existentialism. We had an opportunity to discuss his works within a training week and we were faced with the horror of his paintings and raw depiction of life. He displays to us what is under the skin of creating our own meaning and how that leads to a loss of hope, a loss of soul and darkness.

Within this article, the writer gives us a deeper understanding of what Jean-Paul Sartre says about existentialism in his lecture L'Existentialisme est un humanisme -

A man gets up in the morning. He knows, without a second's moment of self-questioning, what he must do. He must take up the clothes that define his identity as a human being and put them on. He pulls on his black trousers, slaps the napkin across his forearm, adjusts the angle of his chin, and makes for the door. He is, in short, a waiter in a restaurant. That is his nature. That is his identity. That is his destiny.

Such a human being, Sartre points out, is guilty of mauvaise foi, or bad faith. That man is not a waiter at all, not fundamentally. He has chosen that identity for himself. V C The fact is that he is, at root, nothing. He lacks for an essence. He is only what he makes of himself. And, in fact, Sartre is telling us – and this is the baleful truth of the human condition – that there is nothing beyond what a man chooses to make of himself. There is no soul, and no god who looks out for that soul.

Just from looking at Bacon's painting you can see him touching on these things. We may indeed look at them and think they are far from the reality we live in, that they are showing a sign of madness. But truthfully I believe they are showing us the outcome of our thinking of "what a man chooses to make of himself".
Think of this... the world is your oyster and we prefer the grey suits and pay rises that help us create our own meaning.

Not long ago there was a debate in Mexico with Richard Dawkins and William Lane Craig discussing the purpose of the universe. The Dawkins side of the debate did not argue that there was no purpose as such, but rather we create our own reasons for existence and as long as we do good in this world then our reality has proved to be worth it. I guess that's the only possible outcome when you believe that we have no real basis for existence because we are born, live and die.

Yet I was reminded in this of how the Dawkins side of the debate reflects that of Bacon - a hopeless ideology, and perhaps a lonely life that is trying to grip and create some form of meaning within themselves - being whoever they want to be but ending up in the depths of meaninglessness. But of course I am not saying that Dawkins and Co are exactly like Bacon. But I wonder if what Bacon paints is just mirroring the truth and reality of the belief that Dawkins and Co has, but at a deeper and raw level. The difference being is that one wears suits and is portrayed as ideal in our society and the other is seen as an extreme, bleak and lonely artist. Yet I don't think they are worlds apart because they illustrate the stark reality of life without God and its scary.

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