Friday, August 10, 2012

Symbiotic Relationship

- Elizabeth Beck
Living With Memories -

I use music to feed my soul to paint mixed media compositions while I am writing and revising poems. I am not a musician, but I am an avid fan and go to as many live shows as I can. I also attend poetry readings, art gallery shows and the theater. To commit to a creative life assumes the understanding that all genres of art are symbiotic. They are interdependent.

Artists must consume as well as express. It is inherent to our work to be well-read, to watch films, to listen to music, to study art in order to create our own work. Otherwise, we are doing ourselves a huge disservice, as well as to our audience and to our work. In terms of symbiosis as it relates to aesthetics, there are two different aspects: an external and an internal dynamic. Within the internal relationship, there are three parts: the artist's intention; the artwork itself and the audience.

This theory of aesthetics assumes a triangular relationship. In that, there is first the artist's intention. That is a distinctly different aspect to art than the art itself. So, there is a relationship between the artist's intention and his/her art. Just "imagine" a sailboat and then try to draw it. It doesn't look like you "thought" it would, does it? That is why artists paint in series and why musicians perform. What a musician "hears" in his/her head is not always what is expressed. The end result is art.

The art itself has another relationship; one with the audience. This is completely separate from the artist's intention, for the most part. We can't ask Vincent VanGogh what he meant in that painting or what Beethoven intended for that composition. We can read their letters, diaries.... but, for the most part, the audience and the work itself have its own dynamic.

Musicians experience this most closely of all art forms, I would think. I'm a writer, not a musician; but I am an avid jamband fan. The symbiotic relationship between the musicians on stage performing, sending energy out into the audience is directly fed back to them in such an immediate way by the audience dancing, singing, screaming, throwing glow sticks. A writer does not have any "fan" throw glow sticks for her, no matter how amazing her writing. Phish is infamous for their involvement of audience participation. They can play two distinct notes, and we will all scream back "Wilson" without hesitation. Two notes.

Marcel Duchamp became frustrated with this philosophy of aesthetics. He was frustrated that his intention wasn't considered by the audience, which is why he first created "ready- mades". He hung a shovel from the ceiling "Prelude to a Broken Arm" and called it art. In 1917, he sprawled "R. Mutt" on a urinal and scandalized the art world with his blasphemy. Is this art? He would say so. He claimed the process of art was more important than the end result. Of course, at the end of his career, he claimed to have given up art and exclusively played chess. But, then... we learned that he was secretly creating "Etant Donnes", trickster that he always was.

The external dynamic of the symbiotic relationship of art is ekphrasis, the Greek term for art inspired by art. Ekphrastic work could include writing a poem about a piece of visual art "Ode to a Grecian Urn" by John Keates, for example. Or it could be something more loose.... less bound by a direct response.

What we absorb influences us. The more we explore, the wider our range. Imagine hip-
hop without the heavy metal bass lines they use from rock and roll? Impossible! Jazz without art? Poetry without music?

Each genre of art is symbiotic upon all genres of art. To aspire to create original work depends upon careful study of what already exists and what is currently being created. The flow of creative energy moves through all aspects of art and connects us, inspires us and challenges us.


 Elizabeth Beck - a writer, teacher and artist who lives with her family on a pond in Lexington, Kentucky. She writes a blog called "Living with Memories”. You can find her at:

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