Art

The Live Art Experience

Self Portrait at Age of 34

I’ll forever remember the first time I saw a real Rembrandt — live.  I’d seen the same self portrait many times in different places.  But nothing compared to that moment when I walked into The National Gallery in Trafalgar Square in London.  I rounded a corner and found myself face-to-face with Rembrandt’s Self Portrait at Age of 34.  It was right there, just a few feet away, hanging on the wall.  There was nothing but air between it and me.  It was the first time I had the experience and understood at the same time, what the phrase “take my breath away” really meant.

At first I was stunned, and then surprised at my own reaction.  (I would probably have had the same reaction if I had rounded a corner and found myself face-to-face with Billy Joe Armstrong of Green Day.)  But the real question I had to ruminate on was, why would I suddenly feel star-struck in the presence of a painting?  I’d seen that painting so many times on high quality posters and book plates — the very same image.

Maybe it was because I considered him a superstar and I was standing where he had stood, in relation to that same painting, hundreds of years prior to that moment.  I suppose that made me feel closer to him.  But I don’t think that’s it — not entirely.

Here’s another example of live art.  I saw a live band a few nights ago in Hollywood. It was a small and intimate venue and my spot was front and center. There were perhaps 150 people in the audience.  The band consisted of two female singers (lead and backup), a keyboardist, a guy on stand-up bass and a drummer.

They were, each one, amazingly talented. Not only did they sound great individually, they complimented each other beautifully. It was obvious that they enjoyed playing AND they were enjoying each other at the same time.  I loved that part of it as well as the music.

I love recorded music and I listen to it all the time, but I get an entirely different feeling when they’re in front of me playing LIVE.

It’s the same thing if I compare the experience of seeing a movie at the theater vs. on television.  There’s something more special about going to a place with a lot of other people and seeing it on the big screen — the way it was meant to be shown.

I’d much rather have a real painting hanging in my home.  A painting that’s been painted by hand by an artist.  I’m just not a fan of Kinkade’s cottage scenes.  They’re reproductions that are touched up with a little more paint after they come off an assembly line.  Don’t get me wrong — I think he’s very talented and I’m happy for him that he figured out a way to make mega-bucks.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  And I know some people who really love his reproductions — I’m just saying they are not for me.  For me, that’s not the live art experience.

Sure, I know, a book is reproduced through the use of machines, but there’s always been something special about an actual book.  For that reason, I have a difficult time accepting the electronic books.  There’s nothing like holding a real book in my hands and reading it, turning down the corner of a page and referring back and forth to characters and situations and so forth.  There’s even something about the smell of a book that I love.

I love the digital media, but isn’t a CD, a picture of a painting, a DVD that’s watched on a TV, more like a calling card — a piece of promotion inviting us to see, hear, experience the real thing?

Seems like nothing compares to the quality that goes into the thing the artist actually produced and that special quality can not be completely reproduced mechanically.  Something is missing from the mechanical reproduction.  Only when it’s live do I experience that quality — The Live Art Experience.

But that’s just me.  I would love to hear what you think.

© 2010 Christina Moss

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5 thoughts on “The Live Art Experience

  1. Barbara Dowling says:

    I completely agree with you. Live anything is better than a copy – for that’s what a film is, in a way. A film because when it was being made, the actors were there – their senses are full of the feels and smells of that environment. But the film can’t fully capture that.
    Live theater is direct communication with you, the audience.
    A CD while great, doesn’t have all the senses involved that were at the actual performance.
    In a painting, the artist injects his very soul into the work. A copy is less than the original for as we know, make a copy of something and then another copy of a copy, and each new copy becomes a little lighter, a little less impinging and a little more like a piece of peper with dots on it.
    I’m pleased you wrote this.

  2. JR says:

    Experiencing art in the way it was intended to be experienced … Novel concept in our carbon-copied lives. Reproduction is often the great equalizer, but not necessarily in a good way. To view visual art on a computer screen or in a book even is far more forgiving than the bold nudity of the original painting, photograph, etc. Listening to an oft over-processed musical recording made with such aids as Auto-Tune to compensate for less than adequate abilities (or even “performed” live whilst lip syncing the track) versus the raw energy and talent of a live performance. There is something about not only the skills necessary to produce art that is not mass-produced, but also the vulnerability, the risk of the real.

    This is what I aspire to. I’m still young and foolishly latched onto the digital ideals and cheats of my generation as the appropriate course, but I find that it doesn’t bring satisfaction in the way that creating a piece by hand and having the tangible results staring back at me, for better or worse. My art is in the process of this transition. My art will judge me, as it should.

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