How do you feel today?
11 October, 2012

Sky blue painting Untitled, 1969 by Vasudeo S. Gaitonde was sold for close to a million dollars at a Christie’s Auction House earlier in September. For a non-scholar, for a layman, it is a beautiful and calm blue and brown color palette, with serene and slightly somber feel. 

If one does research on the paintings, one finds out it was a representation of New York city in the 1960s. Regardless of its history, forty-two people that walked into the room and

saw thirty more paintings agreed that the blue was the crowd favorite. When asked why, most people said they liked it because it made them feel at peace. So what is it that makes us value our feelings over our minds so much? Where has the narrative in the arts gone? For that matter, where has the narrative of the western civilization gone? Have we lost the ability to function as a thinking society and moved to a higher plane of existence and given ourselves over to feeling? And if so, who is to say that ‘feeling’ trumps rational or irrational thought? How can we assume that ‘feeling’ is a pure activity, not influenced by anything but independent beating of the heart, because if anything, hearts are not independent of the rest of the body, including brains, so what happened to thought? Has it been shut down in favor of feel? That seems to be the case. Is it because we no longer trust information or ourselves to think without being influenced, so we believe we can trust our gut ‘feelings’ over our minds? Or have we simply become lazy? Has the Westerner civilization stopped demanding the narrative because it feels it no longer needs it?

A policeman questioning a very nicely dressed but handcuffed young lady outside a fancy boutique in Soho, asked her why she was shoplifting. The handcuffed young lady shrugged and very matter of fact replied that she was bored, and she just ‘felt like it.’ A man was convicted of first-degree murder of his cheating wife, and his lawyers argued that he had committed not murder but a crime of passion, as if to say, well, he was upset and the rage took over and he did it out of love, therefore he must be forgiven. In recent political case in the country of Georgia Mr. Ivanishvili said that the main reason people didn’t vote for the current president was because the latter wasn’t capable of love. Even in politics the feeling of, in this case of love/hatred, two things that are never too far apart, had trumped all, because these feeling needs no narrative. When a person says he or she is in love they don’t have to explain why. It is understood that rational thought is not in the equation. People do unthinkable things in the name of a feeling, be it love, hatred or jealousy, but never in the name of thought.

It is one thing to say that art reflects the fabric of current time, and yet another to expect it to comment on contemporary dealings without taking a stance. Is art playing into the market of the newly rich starved for affection millionaires, or are we all playing into the same market? Our feelings, are they for sale, and if so, just how much is fair? Without a visible narrative, how far can we progress, how much can we question, and where can it lead us? Perhaps the narrative has been dormant for a century, perhaps it will reawaken and startle the Western civili zation out of false nirvana, or perhaps this is it. Either way, the narrative is just beginning. Where it will go, and if it will go anywhere at all, is up to us.