Art To Action
I was quite amazed to see the piano on the beach. The tide's foamy fingers had already lapped around its legs which were slightly sunk into the soft, grainy sand. From where I was standing I could see that it was a baby grand. Its top was open, as if to embrace the warm, sea breeze, ready and waiting for the pianist. I could see him; tall, bronzed, with teeth gleaming in the last of the sun’s rays. He is barefooted but has not bothered to roll up the trousers of his evening suit. His bow tie is undone and nestles on his crisp, open necked, white shirt. The sudden breeze lifts the quiff of his blond hair and he smooths it down with long, tapered, fingers. He seductively smiles as he passes me, sits down on the piano stool and starts to play ‘Love Changes Everything’. I sigh. My favourite song.
I start to sway with the music. My long gossamer dress flows and caresses my legs. I am nearing the piano. I put my hand on the back of his neck. He looks up at me, takes one hand from the ivory keys and…..
“Absolute rubbish!” The words cut across my daydreaming.
“What?” I asked “Sorry. What did you say?”
A rather large lady was standing next to me.
“This picture of the piano. Rubbish. Why, the legs would rot in no time and how would it get there?”
“It’s only a picture.” I managed to say before she started again.
“And they call it art!” Her voice went up an octave. “My six year old grandson would have more sense than to paint a picture of a piano standing in the sea. Where are the vases of flowers and the country cottages? That’s what I came to see.”
I looked again at the picture. It was beautiful. I looked at the woman again. I wanted to ask her why she couldn’t see or feel the beauty and the calmness that it portrayed but, she was already moving on to the next room. I looked at my brochure. Oh dear. It was the abstract section. I wondered what she would make of that.
“How ridiculous!” came the cry.
I had not had to wait long.
I fell out of the carriage onto the platform at Highbury & Islington, jogged across to the national rail platform and looked up at the display. 19:18 to Stevenage - cancelled. 19:33 to Letchworth Garden City - cancelled. 19:48 to Hertford North - cancelled. Seriously? My head dropped to my chest and I felt like just sitting down right there and giving up. But it was back across to the other platform to wait for another delayed Victoria Line train. I switched to the Piccadilly Line at Finsbury Park and waited through the long haul all the way up to Oakwood.
As was traditional, I called home from Arnos Grove to find out if my wife would be willing to drive out and pick me up, but there was no answer. So I had to wait fifteen minutes for the bus and at last arrived home at about half past eight. I dropped my bag right inside the door and trudged into the kitchen, hoping to find a meal waiting for me, but instead found a folded note on the counter.
Gone out for an impromptu girls’ night - hope that’s okay. Feed yourself and don’t wait up.
Also, see below list for everything that needs doing round the flat tonight - have fun!
Food shopping - Vicky completed
Laundry - Vicky completed
Feed the fish - Vicky completed
Empty the bins - Art to action
Change the air filters in the fish tank - Art to action
Wash up - Art to action
See you tomorrow!
I sighed heavily, took off my jacket and set to work.
There is a cycle: as people become galvanised to do something, that need is expressed in numerous, countless ways. Some turn to art: art created from plastic rubbish, to draw the attention of the people who still seem to be blissfully ignorant. The supermarkets that still package using plastic: the consumers who happily chuck it on the ground when they have finished with whatever the plastic had wrapped.
It has to be acknowledged that, in creating awareness of the problems of plastic, the most significant art of recent times has been created by the video camera and the operator behind the lens, who may be an individual or part of a larger, concerned, organisation. You will have seen terrible images of all species suffering at our hands, in places as far from ‘civilisation’ as you can imagine. The most memorable of these is in documentary form: Blue Planet. I was at a conference about the oceans a couple of weeks ago and Blue Planet was mentioned several times. Many people there had been galvanised into action by the images they saw.
If you class the medium of video as art, then video truly is turning art into action.
Looking ahead, how will this progress?
What the next concerns will be?
It will be interesting to see when we start panicking properly about the rest of the junk we tip in the oceans. Radioactive waste? Heavy metals? It is acknowledged that it is dangerous to eat many species of fish because of the high levels of toxic matter in their flesh.
Had you noticed that we tend to think of ourselves? If we eat the fish, it may not be good for us. How about the fish? Is it ok for them to suffer too, in these days of animal welfare. Just because we can’t see them doesn’t mean they don’t suffer. Will the medium of video teach us more about what we can’t see within the sea?
The unseen fish have sensors by which to be aware of their surroundings, just like birds. They swim in shoals, like birds fly in flocks.
I don’t believe it is acceptable to eat birds? I’ve not heard of folks eating blackbirds and starlings, except in nursery rhymes – though these songs were founded in fact. Many years ago, flocks of birds were caught in nets to be consumed. Would that be acceptable now? Perhaps in the future folks will reduce their consumption of fish when more is learnt about these unseen species, in the same way that many people now are vegetarians and – surprisingly to many, they function as well – in fact probably better – than those who eat meat.
Whatever your views, it will be interesting to see how the messages develop: what the messages will be and how they change. And how they will be conveyed. If a picture paints a thousand words, art, probably in the form of moving images, will inevitably be the way to convey that message to call us to action.