Only art can save us now

Santiago Zabala at Al Jazeera:

201251141759597734_20Perhaps rather than God, as Martin Heidegger once said, it is art that can save us. After all, artistic creations have always had political, religious and social meanings that also aimed in some way to save us. Certainly, they also express beauty, but this depends very much on the public's aesthetic taste, which varies according to the cultural environment of each society.

But when the political meaning is manifest, aesthetics (our sensations and taste) lose ground in favour of interpretation (knowledge and judgment); that is, instead of inviting us to contemplate its beauty, a work calls us to respond, react and become involved. As it turns out, art – as a channel to express reactions to significant issues – has sometimes worked better than historical or factual reconstructions.

Pablo Picasso's Guernica is the example we all have in mind: painted as a response to the Spanish nationalist forces' bombing of a town in the Basque country, it was used not only to inform the public but also as a symbol of all the innocent victims of war. This is probably why “aesthetics”, a term coined by the German philosopher Alexander Baumgarten in 1735, refers not only to the study of art but also to sensory experience coupled with feelings regardless of the nature of its object. But can contemporary art, whether through music, conceptual installations or cinema actually save us from the damned circumstances, atrocities and injustices we live among?

More here.