Friday, 5 February 2010

Art isn't perfect

It's slowly getting into my head that like everything in life, art doesn't need to be perfect.

I used to have this notion - probably driven by an assumption made as a child - that when someone publishes something, or shares something - that it is "finished".

But here's the thing.

That's nonsense.

It's not to be spotless. It can't be.

Many products and services are sold with the gloss that makes them appear "perfect", and we feel let down when something doesn't come up to that standard. But wait, most products and services aren't perfect. They reach the point of being "good enough", but perhaps not perfect (exceptions to that being boxes of Lego, and perhaps some precision engineering instruments).

"Marketing" can shoulder some of the blame for trying to convince us that brand X is perfect over brand Z. We can also bear some responsibility for swallowing all those messages.

I'm thinking that it's all about interpretation and that means a lens.

The lens we view the world through - and also the lens of expectation. If I pay £5 for a meal in a bar, I'm not expecting that it's perfect. I'm expecting it's cooked enough, has no hair in it and at least some nutritional value. If I'm paying £25 for a meal in a bar, I'm expecting much more. However, I can't expect it to be perfect.

We can't do perfect as we're not perfect. We can work hard to get better (known to those who care about such thing as practice). We can apply ourselves to improve. But ultimately, we have to recognise that there comes a point when it's good enough. When it's just got to go.

And what of art? Well, art is by nature unfinished. It reflects a thought, a moment, a concept, the faintest of ideas and the energy that the artist could through at it.

The music I hear recorded in a studio was not meant to be perfect. It was meant to reflect the reality of the songs as well as they can.

That sermon I heard at church was not meant to be perfect. Even if it was highly polished and full of wit, truth and reality.

I guess that's why I've come to terms with music I've made in the past not being as polished as I'd like and why I can enjoy the process that an artist has gone through as much as the end result.

Anyway, a bit of a rant, but I wonder what your views are.

Do you think that things can be perfect? Am I missing the point of art?

PS - in this post about change, Seth Godin hints that we need to get over our fear of things not being okay. I TOTALLY agree.


Stewart said...

I agree Andy. I've never written anything that I couldn't revise and make better. Lots of artists are paralysed by that which seems to be to be a huge loss.

I wrote a bit about the 'could be better' attitude that we grow up hearing. I think that has a lot to do with out fears and search for perfection. That can be crippling because we know that we will never produce perfection.

That's not to say we shouldn't try hard... but exceptional and perfection aren't the same thing.

theWeir said...

Perfection is such a shackle.

Completely agree with your contract of exceptional and perfection.

It's something that Jenny has helped me learn about - as well as many other people.

I've been reading and hearing a lot about this tension since writing this post - and hope to have something else to share soon too...