I should first try to define art. Simply put, it is any creative act, anything being brought into existence for the first time. This does not require something to be completely original, novel, nor previously totally unobserved. We are a collection of influences, be it through music, books, or society in general. Therefore, when we produce something, it will inherently have some some hue that is not entirely our own. For example, I would certainly consider a collage a piece of art. Each individual element may be completely unoriginal, but the arrangement of the pieces in time and space, as a whole, qualifies it as a work of art and a product of creativity. As is music. Millions of songs have (and will have) the chord progression of G,D,C, but that core of similarity does not disqualify them as unique constructions.
Art is an etching in spacetime, showcasing the unique nature of some particular moment. When you listen to a song, or gaze upon a painting, some part of you is transported back to that special time when someone’s skills and dedication had that oh so rare of union with the muse. Signed and dated in that very moment, to be shared with the world. The production is a summation of the cultural and the personal which speaks to something in all of us. A meeting of the known and unknown that could only come into existence through that very moment. When that song takes you back seven years, gives you goosebumps, or inspires you to keep going, that is special. That is the transfer of psychic energy, or libido.
“What is essential in a work of art is that it should rise far and above the realm of personal life and speak from the spirit and the heart of the poet as a man to the spirit and heart of mankind.”Carl Jung, Modern Man in Search of a Soul
Art is the outcome of the unconscious reaching up through consciousness. There lies a latent psychic energy in the unconscious, and the artist has the ability to withstand its surge. But not only to withstand, the artist must harness, mold, and personalize. He must not be overwhelmed by the flood of the unknown, and must be able to direct the energy into something that speaks to the shared traits of humankind.
Not everyone has the constitution to venture into these depths and come out unscathed. However, those bold heroes that manage to do so leave their mark on the world. For the deeper one is able to go, the closer he gets to the core of our existence. That commonality we call the human condition. Those parts that lie within us, regardless of where we were born, how we were raised, or what god we believe in. Those blissful moments which are always counterbalanced by those in the depths of despair. By venturing here, the artist wins access to this most intimate part of our being. By venturing here, the artist can heal, move, and transcend.
Part of the artistic creation we understand. This part draws us in and allows us to relate. A common rhythm that fills us with a sense of attraction. But extraordinary art pairs this unifying feature with a coloring that only the artist could create. It blends that which is familiar with the unique and foreign. We can feel that unconscious layer in the art, shared by us all, drawing us in. The attraction of a symbolic representation of an archetype which extends from the collective unconscious. Then the artist reaches out, and meets this energy in his own consciousness. This is where he styles, shapes, and forms something that only he could. Adding an outer layer that personalizes and stamps the creation for the rest of time.
It is clear art connects us. It is a great unifier, across time, space, language, and tradition. In fact, art has the ability to transcend any barrier we construct, as some piece of it lives in our shared collective unconscious. It may not arouse the same feeling in me as it does in you, and it most certainly means something different to both of us than the person who created it, but the fact that it stirred something inside all of us, that is what makes it art.