I think I figured out something about art tonight. I was walking home from work and listening to some music that I really love - a band called Pinback - and as I was listening, I saw my shadow marching before me, in step with the song. It's a dark no-moon night, so the available light was coming mostly from street lamps. The lights which were casting my shadow were about 100 yards behind me, and at the top of a hill. I was in this little valley with trees all around, and my shadow was long and surreal... like a caricature of me.
I began to feel separated from my shadow, as if I wasn't associated with it, but just watching it perform this marching step in time with the music, a rigid step-dance, independent from me. I saw it as this black description of an animated piece of negative space, forever marching away from me. Purposefully moving away from me, trying to get away from me, to disassociate itself from me.
And that's when I realized what art really is. It's an expression of everything, represented as a caricature of the artist, but separated from the artist on a thousand superficial levels. If we just look at it and then look away, then we only see the most shallow part, the just under the surface information which is meant to lead into the heart of the artist, but only gives vague directions. This is the view that most of us perceive when someone presents us with a thing that they want us to appreciate. Usually we just glance at it, or listen to a few seconds of it with half an ear, and say, "Cool," when what we actually mean is, "I really don't give a shit because it isn't about me. Now, have I got something to show you..."
So that's art in a nutshell. Just a method for trying to get people to understand that thing about ourselves that even we don't understand. The problem with it is, most of us are so self absorbed that we never recognize what's being said. We want you to look at us, but we don't want to look at you. But then again, what makes art a 'thing' to begin with is that shared connection among people who understand a particular something. The concept exists as a phenomenon - but independent of logic.
Isn't that funny?