Arts, Culture, Literature

Bringing Sacredness Back to Art

While I am currently tied up finishing a nine-year-old book draft, there has been no time to post fresh material here. But I ran across something this morning that struck me as so outstanding, I knew it had to stand in for me today.

Mark Jackson recently published an outstanding critique of a resurrected 10-year-old film, The Black Swan (2010), which starred Natalie Portman. I know people who loved that film; I personally detested it. In his article, “Rewind, Review, and Re-rate ‘Black Swan’: Making a Case for Bringing Back Sacredness to Art,” Jackson admits that the performances were all sterling. (Portman won an Oscar, by the way.) In fact, even I admit it is a literary masterpiece. But does that redeem its darkness?

The role of elite ballerina Nina Sayers checked off many of the things on the list that attract Mr. Oscar — dramatic weight loss, all-consuming immersion in a demanding skill-set (ballet), and shape-shifting disappearance into a character. Indeed, her brief transformation at the end, into the actual Black Swan of the title, is as bona fide a shape-shift as one will ever see in cinema — that moment alone was almost worth the price of admission.

Jackson notes that the film has two of the three Socratic ingredients that go into great art: truth and beauty. The third element, which it lacks, is goodness.

. . . in the distant past, when art was meant to depict the divine, it was with the intention of uplifting the observer spiritually, and not to impart a sense of satisfaction in baser human emotions such as revenge (that exist throughout Shakespeare’s work). In terms of the original use of art, even Shakespeare’s secular poetry, beautiful as it is, was a fallen art form — the original theater was church services; wholly in the realm of the sacred.

Unfortunately, I do not have permission to reprint the entire article, neither am I certain that everyone can pull up the link, since I found it on The Epoch Times (which usually requires a subscription). But give it a look-see if you can. This is simply too good to miss.

If art didn’t have a healing capacity, the field of art therapy wouldn’t exist. We know art can heal, and that healers are not motivated by a need for attention.  The dark conclusion of ‘Black Swan’ . . . is the logical outcome of art that’s trending further and further away from art’s origins.

Does art have to be filled with darkness, depression, and hopelessness in order to be ‘great’ or ‘accomplished’? Has it self-cannibalized to the point that it is no longer art, but something else? Should it be about the business of healing and redemption? And from what conditions to what purposes? Now those are some questions worth pondering . . .

[Note: After reading a comment on someone else’s feed, I thought a few words might be in order. Language is tricky, especially nowadays. Seems someone didn’t like the word ‘sacred’ because to them it referred to God. The word is used pretty liberally nowadays, so it’s not clear precisely how far the writer intended to go with it. He references the fact that ‘the original theater was in church services’ — which it was. He may not have been saying that in order to be good art must be religious in character. On the other hand, there is an art that bears a sort of goodness by reason of the virtue in the artist who created it. I take the term ‘sacred’ here in its most general sense, religious or not.]

Featured art: Black Coffee, Aubrey Beardsley, via WikiArt

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