The Aim of Art

“The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.” – Aristotle

First the confession.  I named my solo project “Ari”stotle’s Hope simply because I liked how it contained my name.  I don’t know much about the man.

But I stumbled across the above quote after I named my project, and I thought it was very profound.  The line between entertainment and art is very blurry but I’d describe the difference as the following:

  • Entertainment: an experience aimed at engaging our senses as strongly as possible
  • Art: an expression of artist’s vision and emotions meant to be shared with those who resonate with it

So an entertainment is a deliberate attempt to hook its consumers.  Its goal is to seek as big an audience as possible, the more the better.  It aims to manipulate people into paying attention.

On the other hand, art is more creator-driven, it is made because the creator has the need to make it.  It requires an audience but the aim is not to appeal to as many as possible.  Instead it seeks to create deeper impression on the few who do connect to it.

One of the key differences is how much of the creators themselves are poured into the creation.  An entertainment focuses on the audience first by putting in the content that they want (or rather, what the creators think the audience wants), while an art is the other way around.

I am using a language that can be perceived as higher-than-thou, but I am not knocking entertainers.  I myself am a consumer of entertainment, and I admire those who do it well.  Art, by its selfish nature, tends to be less accessible than entertainment, and many times throughout the days I’d rather engage in easy entertainment than make an effort to appreciate art.

But I do appreciate how Aristotle recognizes that art represents our “inward significance.”  I love art because it’s an expression of what’s important to us.  In day to day life, we deal with a lot of activities that concern only surfaces of things.  I am not saying this shouldn’t be, as engaging with stuff of deeper significance takes energy and effort, it’s tiring to do it all the time.

That being said, just as a society needs entertainers, so does it need artists.  Because art connect us to a deeper place within us.  When you resonate with a piece of art, you are reminded that there is more to this life than what we see most of the time.

The funny thing about music is that whatever is populist and newer at any given time isn’t considered art.  If you asked someone which one is more “art” between classical music and rock n roll, the answer likely is the former.  That’s gross generalization, but not entirely without merit.  Classical music has smaller audience now, so people tend to be into it for the art of it.  In comparison, rock music is more entertaining, as in having more mass appeal.

But there is one tradition in rock n roll that proves that all rock n roll contains some elements of art.  In rock music, just about every “artist” write their own material.  Unlike pop and country music, there are few acts who are picking songs written entirely by outside professional songwriters.  When you are a songwriter, it’s almost impossible not to put yourself into the song.

Therefore, rock n roll is an art form in my book.  I’m into rock because I have something to say, in fact a burning desire to say something through this medium.  I am hoping that some people out there will resonate with what I create, certainly, but that’s not the only goal I have.  I just do it because it gives meaning to my life, a reason to get up and face each day.  No entertainment gives me that kind of energy, even though I consume entertainment everyday.

So, the “representing of inward significance” turns out to be a source of life energy.  That’s why the world needs us artists.  I am one of them, and I will remain one till the day I die.