Art is like religion except you don’t have to believe anything

Artists create illusions. Like magicians, we employ materials, techniques, situations, behaviors, and mindsets in the manipulation of human experience. Matters of perception, cognition, and consciousness in general, are the artist’s métiers.

The goal of art is to cause people to experience immaterial realities (feelings, states of mind, ideas, and insights) by means of intervention in the material world. Already, in these brief paragraphs, the correspondences with paranormal/spiritual/metaphysical/religious practice are clearly evident.

The differences, however, are crucial. Art begins and ends as an investigation. Religion is a matter of faith. So, in fact, is science. The basic assumptions of both religion and science are unassailable. This is both their strength and their weakness. Science and religion have a powerful hold on the human psyche, which causes them to endure even when rigorously questioned. Such imperviousness dooms them both to fall short when confronted with the essential questions of human experience.

Art, on the other hand, is a process of questioning conventional notions of reality. Artists use the same cultural constructs upon which religion and science are pinioned. But by making art – from the first expressions on the cave walls of prehistory to the myriad manifestations of aesthetic forms emerging on the Internet – artists subvert what is considered “real” and engage those so-called “truths” in the service of creating illusions that reveal information not contained in conventional definitions of reality.

Ultimately the manifold branches of human pursuit are subsumed into aesthetics. Upon examining the underlying trajectory of desire – human destiny – the conclusion is clear. We create our world through a process of aesthetic decision-making.

From this perspective, it appears most sensible to examine deeply what type of world – what type of universe – we want to inhabit. Because we are human, we will make that choice based not on ontology, or epistemology, or ethics, or politics. Those are and have always been ruses for our true preferences.

Human beings do things for aesthetic reasons. Often we fail. Sometimes we succeed. Nevertheless, the new world we seek is always more desirable – more beautiful – than the old.

How will you choose to change the world – your universe – today?

Image: New World, Tullio Francesco DeSantis, mixed media

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