If art has the ability to inspire everyone, what stops pieces of art from being inspiring? As a dancer myself, why do I find it hard to connect to and understand the dance I see? After much research, I’ve discovered that whether art is inspirational has to do with it’s ability to communicate with the audience. I’ve seen so many dances that made me feel alienated as an audience member, and it is impossible to feel inspired when feeling alienated.
Alienation is becoming quite a trend in the arts. Today, seeing a show means there is at least a fifty percent chance you will not understand what is happening on the stage. Often, artists dismiss the lack of understanding or enthusiasm for a show by saying, “they just don’t get it.” People are even shamed and made to feel quite unintelligent for not understanding art.
Writer Paul Ransom of the Dance Informa addresses this idea from a different standpoint in his article, “Is That Dance?” Ransom writes about what the media called “unmissable” show that unfortunately left him, “feeling anything but inspired.” He goes on to explain his frustration and sheer boredom from watching pieces of contemporary dance in which the dancers roll around on the floor in silence. He sums up the problem with the trend, effectively saying, “The point here is that, as artists, we need to be wary of becoming victim to our own mania for concept.”
Concept is, of course, important. Without a concept, art is devoid of meaning and purpose. But when we succumb to what Ransom calls the “mania for concept,” we lose sight of the audience. We forget or even dismiss the audience’s perception of our work, and we eventually lose sight of why we perform in the first place. Art is made to be experienced by people, and as such it should be made to speak to people.
The dismissive notion that the audience “just doesn’t get it” is extremely detrimental to the arts. Of course, different people prefer different aesthetics and different art forms, but when the people who like your art form aren’t inspired by your art, that is an issue to be addressed. Not because we should strive to be liked by everyone or to please everyone, but because art is meant to inspire. And if the goal of art is to inspire and challenge, as most people would agree, artists should be working the hardest to make that happen. Artists work so hard on technique, but that technique is useless if it is not used properly. Everything we do should be treated as a means to the end of creating art that people can experience. Our audiences are full of people with whom we want to share our art. We should treat them as such.