The purpose of art is to lay bare the questions which have been hidden by the answers.
– James Baldwin –
When I started my blog in July 2014 my sole purpose was to reconnect with my fragmented creative-self. I have since then reached that purpose and am deeply grateful for it.
My current status is one of art-making again and I now find myself re-contemplating the idea of purpose in art. Exploring this idea via a Google search it is clear that there are diverse viewpoints loudly echoed from Creatives. Pablo Picasso felt that purpose in art could allow ‘the dust of daily life’ to be washed away, whereas Glenn Gould (pianist, writer and composer) said that the purpose of art was ‘the lifelong construction of wonder.’ Neither these artists seemed particularly perturbed by purpose itself, yet developed an art brand that was not only unique, but sustainable and relevant over time. I believe that I can draw from advertising here. Although a somewhat foreign environment to me, I realize that the development of powerful branding purpose is an area of advertising’s expertise.
Mark Di Somma is a creative strategist and writer who sees brand as a powerful lens to explore issues one may grapple with in a broader context. It’s the big picture that counts here yet strongly connects to each day, to today even. The big picture concerns itself with ways one’s brand (read: your specific art) will change the world for the better. This is one’s ‘statement of belief, of hope, of pursuit.’ In other words: the purpose of one’s art-brand. One’s focus should be ‘on the passion, on the biggest belief you share and on the implications of holding that belief for everything that you do.’ That’s the big picture which Di Somma creatively sketches in Developing A Powerful Brand Purpose.
But how is one’s (larger) purpose framed for where one currently is? How is one’s brand purpose brought back to the here and now? Referencing Steve Jobs, Di Somma says that instead of Jobs asking people to think differently, he would frame the question as: ‘What are you doing today to think different?’
It’s easy for me to ask myself what I’m passionate about and what my biggest beliefs are. My answer would be to say: my continual interest in invisible connectivity, which could include movement, sound and/or energy. I know what I intensely pursue and have pursued over time, and to me this pursuit is more than evident in the drawing below.
But let me take Jobs’s question back to this drawing that got me thinking about purpose initially. Starting as an exercise the idea was to connect 11 dots made randomly on paper, allowing the process of mark-making to unfold as the process evolved. In the midst of the drawing I started wondering what the purpose of joining random dots could possibly be in the context of global art. How could this drawing contribute to making any fundamental change to the world, a question that Di Somma urges one to translate into a statement.
Asking myself Steve Jobs’s specific question is far more difficult to answer than what my overall purpose is, surprisingly enough. Yet posing this question is vital according to Di Somma:
Such questions bring the purpose right down to what anyone is doing at any given moment. If you can’t frame a benchmark question from your purpose, it isn’t personal enough and therefore risks being irrelevant.
It is certainly something I will ask of myself today as I work. To this, I would add James Baldwin’s benchmark question: ‘What questions have been laid bare ..?