So me and a friend who happens to teach art history and art appreciation have had this conversation at least twice now:
Is there or is there not a truth?
I’m wondering if its a concept she applies to her branch of art or life in general?
She is older than me and seems to know what she’s talking about for herself so I think its pointless to argue with her about that point of view. What kind of world would this be if we all thought exactly the same?
But personally, though she laughs at me, I don’t find rampant existentialism to be funny at all.
I fundamentally disagree with her, hoping that her perspective extends only to her area of expertise.
I believe there is meaning and intention in many artworks. Only ignorance or a blatant disregard allow people to think otherwise. Not everything is an abstract. Even painters have to use certain tools in order to call themselves painters–there is meaning and intention right there, in the very tools some of them use to impose illusions of lack of meaning and truthlessness.
As an artist whose medium is primarily the inside of my own mind and the written word, when I put pen to paper, there must be meaning or what’s the purpose of a book or a story? In those moments of sublimation, of actualization, I am both artist and activist, and my truth is the only truth, the truth of my characters is the only truth.
I’m not saying that there are necessarily universal truth that everyone must follow. But I am saying that there are truths. The reality of multiple truths creates a space of positives and negatives, and ultimately, negation. If there were no truths, there would be no existentialism because existentialism exists and thrives in that negation, in how truths cancel each other out (or preside together).
This is the rub for me, where I just cant get with existentialism: Privileged people use existentialism, the old “everything means nothing” excuse, all the time. I’ve had bigoted people and the so-called enlightened use this excuse against me in many arenas. However, many things and truths have as much meaning and importance as you and the people around you are willing to give them. We collectively shape society and therefore reality to an extent. Existentialism means inaction, to leave everything to chance, because you have given into hopelessness and powerlessness; it makes it easier for you to autopilot through life without meeting meaning, it makes it easier for you to ignore the world around you. You see nothing in everything so you do, see, feel, and touch nothing.
So I try to leave existentialism at oil paintings in museums with art people and others who believe in it. Though I believe its a tempting concept in terms of ultimate truths, I haven’t lived in this world for nothing and neither did my ancestors. I wont and I cant say that they’re lives and the spirits with me mean nothing. I wont reduce my reality and my art and my writing to nothingness, not while I’m still breathing. I feel like I can say that now, as I become more confident and express my Black feminism.
People say the the existence of truth is a lie. Maybe the real lie, the true magician, the absolute illusion, lies in the idea that you are not connected to everything you create and put into the world, in that choice to believe that everything is nothing. In that fantasy that meaning can be erased.