What's the Purpose of Art in Our Society?

What is the purpose of art in a society? This is a question that seems impossible to answer; almost. When I think about this question, I don’t think there is really one right answer. Just a lot of opinions from different people. It does seem like a hard question, but there’s a quote from one of my all-time favorite movies that goes like this:

“Medicine, law, business, engineering: these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life.But, poetry, beauty, romance and love… these are what we stay alive for.”-Dead Poet’s Society (Robin Williams)

I think there’s no simpler way to answer your question. Robin Williams has reduced one huge problem of justifying ‘art and it’s purpose’ to people. Art makes everything tangible that one thinks is intangible, because those are mere figments of one’s mind.

I can ramble on for pages and still enough can’t be said or written about ART.

Let’s take a small example here. Assume you or someone you can imagine is driving a car at a really really high speed and you soon realize that the brakes have failed. You get anxious and sit horror struck as to what will happen next or probably you’re in such a shock that you stop thinking, your brain stops functioning, emerging in a blackout. What are those 2 minutes going to be like? Can you write it on paper? Can you explain the feeling of terror that you experienced? You cannot. Why? Simply because words and language face the problem of insufficiency. They cannot define everything. They cannot define a color, they cannot define a sublime feeling of an experience whether good or bad which is why we need art.

In the famous novel by Laurence Sterne: ‘Life and opinions of Tristam Shandy-gentlemen’. Sterne leaves a page BLANK in between the text when he comes to know of Yorick’s death. I think it’s beautiful. Words and language failed at that point of time when he was grieving Yorick’s death. He decided to leave a blank page because he was so inconsolable that language became inadequate, and explanations futile.

Best thing about art is that it never looks for singularity. It is open for interpretations, any art is everybody’s art since the beholder visualizes his reality, his knowledge and tries to give it a meaning, which makes it singular. Ironic, isn’t it?

"Three Girls" Painted by Amrita Sher-Gil

We may look at Amrita Shergill’s painting “Three girls” and just assume that it’s a painting portraying three girls. That’s not it. In one single painting, Amrita Shergill pointed out the concern for women where they are challenged in the patriarchal society. They are soon to be married and will be tied in a system of subjugation and unending misery.

Art serves society. It’s the mirror of the society we live in.

Art is a weapon and an aid of self expression, it is freedom – being able to bend things most people see as a straight line.


Written by Van Windsor

What do you think?


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  1. The oldest known cave painting is a red hand stencil in Maltravieso cave, Cáceres, Spain. It has been dated using the uranium-thorium method to older than 64,000 years and was made by a Neanderthal. Why did this person create this art? We will never know. I think art is what defines us as human.

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