Tuesday, February 13, 2007

It's all useless anyway

Via Anurag Bansal, I just saw this great quote by the Russian film director Andrei Tarkovsky:
It is obvious that art cannot teach anyone anything, since in four thousand years humanity has learnt nothing at all. We should long ago have become angels had we been capable of paying attention to the experience of art, and allowing ourselves to be changed in accordance with the ideals it expresses. Art only has the capacity, through shock and catharsis, to make the human soul receptive to good. It's ridiculous to imagine that people can be taught to be good...Art can only give food - a jolt - the occasion - for psychical experience.


  1. It's not that humanity doesn't learn. It's just that we forget really fast.
    That said though, I would argue art does teach you. To recognise and appreciate beauty. It makes you more sensitive. I think so. And obviously not everyone is into art. Some people are just cretins.

  2. OOOOh, you're not suddenly getting all hoity-toity on us, are you? (Just kidding. You know I so love AT. He transforms me when I watch him. I don't know if I learn, but I do change. But sometimes I wonder if Art's greatest and most wonderful gift to us is not angels, but shit. Yes, shit. You know what I mean? Shit.)

  3. You talking about me, Jai? : )

    I agree with Andrei... art can only evoke responses within human beings and we can be inspired, shocked etc. but art cannot transform basic human instincts such as the human struggle for survival and all that it encompasses (war, subjugation..)

  4. It's not that humanity doesn't learn. It's just that we forget really fast.

    I think Tarkovsky is saying the same. I think he is saying something about the human nature, that cant hold anything good for long. Thats why he talks about the jolt, the occasion, and the experience, rather than
    any lasting impact, which seems impossible owning to the human traits.

  5. I wonder. People can't be taught to be good, but maybe they can. Isn't appreciation of art itself an acquired talent? Would any of us be receptive to art if we were grubbing for every meal?

    (it made me think of a critically ill person being zapped by one of those heart-electric-machine-thingys..like "Red Alert! Art-dead person in the OR")