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the realities of the situation

May 27, 2009

[] Aleksandr Voronsky, the Soviet critic and opponent of Stalin, pointed out 70 years ago, in his essay “The Art of Seeing the World” (1928), that it was very difficult for the artist to discover and genuinely accept the world, to see the world as it is, independently of us, inherently complex and beautiful, “in all its freshness and immediacy.”

He pointed to the habits, prejudices, frustrations and the host of other pressures of everyday life that weigh us down, deadening “the sharpness and freshness of perception and attention” and lending reality “a peculiarly gray, doleful and wretched coloration.” Against all this, the artist seeks out, Voronsky wrote, “unspoiled and genuine images of the world,” which he described as “the principal meaning and purpose of art.”

If Voronsky was correct, and I believe he was, telling the truth in art has always been a great struggle. It is a demanding mental and physical effort, not to be undertaken lightly. But are there not particular difficulties today? And are there not specific failings? Why does it seem there is such a chasm between artistic efforts and the character of present-day life, which for masses of the world’s population involves a daily struggle for survival? Why does art so often seem indifferent or blind to the crisis of human society, and to great historical and social questions in general? (read)

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