2014 was a hard year . . .

2014 was a hard year . . . . I left my job for the sake of art.  In 2014 I wrote everyday, learned a thing or two about the craft, wrote one piece I was happy with, threw aside tomes of other work as heartbreakingly mediocre.  In 2014 I saw a lot of bad theatre, mind-numbing television, and dull movies, but I did see a couple works of art that opened my heart and mind . . . .

Now as I enter 2015 I’m seriously wondering if art is enough. My year is all planned out: teaching writing at Wits and at the Market Lab, my play Two Women opening in July, new television, theatre, and film projects on the go.  But I’m  still not sure . . .  sometimes I think maybe I should do something more concrete like shoveling a ditch or closing down a prison or even opening a mine . . .

I spent the new years catching up with old friends in England – an odd mix of chatting, visiting restaurants and theatre, crawling around the floor with babies and frantic toddlers.  We spoke a lot about our lives, where we were going, the role of art.  Afterwards I got this not from a friend:

“For me art seems more important than ever, looking at how people can fragment away from humanity and be brutal, it seems we almost have a ‘duty’ to maintain the amazing achievement that civilization is. A person could be in the mud killing each other or they could sit in a beautiful ancient building listening to an orchestra play a subtle and intricate composition of feeling and implicit cooperation. More than ever, art seems to me very much what it means to be human and to live – both for ourselves now and for future generations.”

I love the sentiment of the quote – art is what teaches us to be human.  Although as I read her note over and over I realize part of why I feel far away (from my former self) and perhaps a little despondent.  I’m not looking for art anymore in European buildings or orchestral concerts – I’m looking now instead in the textures of life in South Africa where I live.  I’m looking for transformation in what Fugard describes as the toilet water English of his Afrikaans mother.  Or I’m seeking hope in South African pre-colonial theatre traditions like the performance of a Pedi wedding negotiation with its speeches, praise poetry and dance.  Or I listen intently to the ways in which stories get mulled and churned and structured at taxi ranks waiting for the buses in Joburg- I want to know what instruction this language and these stories can tell us about how to live. This is where I seek my art these days.

So here’s my plan and this is where I’m looking for meaning in art in 2015. It feels like a difficult and sometimes fools errant task, but we’ll see what I find  . . .

2 Responses to 2014 was a hard year . . .

  1. Jeff Holzgrefe says:

    Alex,
    Have you read Proust’s In Search of Lost Time? It makes the case, in word and by example, for the transcendental, indeed redeeming, power of art better than anything else I’ve encountered. And if you have read it, perhaps it’s time to revisit it. Jeff

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