Eckhart Tolle says that the unconscious compulsion to enhance one’s identity by association with an object is built into the very structure of the egoic mind. This is exactly what Marketing Mastermind Seth Godin concludes about the near cult-like allegiance people have to Apple products: his conclusion is that Apple aficionados are in effect saying to the world, “I can afford to pay (more) for this iPhone; I’m part of the Apple tribe.” Yes – huge surprise – there is an element of ego involved in owning the most expensive cell phone!
The question I am grappling with is: how does this same concept play out – in a positive way – when art affects the viewer? On one end, we have an ego-driven response wherein one’s association with the thing/art becomes part of ones identity – via ownership, experience to exploit (e.g., “I saw the new Banksy before anyone!”) or some other form of self aggrandizement. I know that ‘glory by association’ is a factor in the high end art game, some collectors want to own a particular artist just to be able to say they do (not all collectors by any means!). But I’m not (yet) in the big leagues and I want people to react to my art, I want them to get something slightly intangible, more elusive from it.
My view is that someone’s reaction to the indwelling spirit of the art can be a feeling (serenity, excitement, etc) generated by a sympathetic vibration with the art and the artist. Whatever the source of that feeling – whether that be from spirit, a memory, or just pure joy – it happens before your brain gets in the way. Once the brain starts analyzing, the ego takes over. There is also a place for taking ones time with a piece of art, being present, in some cases for a long time. And you can think about art, pondering “what is going on?” Seriously, it’s OK. There are a lot of things going on in my art that are not obvious at first: I do want you to ponder.
But, that first reaction to my art is the most precious: how does it make you feel?