Culture is a way of life, the sets of knowledge and expressions of a society.
A person’s culture is the set of information and skills possessed by this person.
Why is culture necessary or even useful to us?
Without a culture, we remain tools of production. Yes, there are “corporate cultures” and “work cultures.” But those do not define our entire lives, unless working is all we do.
But for an artist, his or her life is inseparable from his work, his culture and the general culture of his society, in some cases, the whole world.
As an example, the artist, Vincent Van Gogh, dedicated his life to searching for the sacred aspects of existence. Art is, for Van Gogh, religious. His works’ excite and disturb, with real style and affirmation of a personality. His contribution to the culture of the world is immense. I like, in particular, Antonin Artaud’s quote: “We won’t see Nature again in the same way after it was painted by Van Gogh”. He was a hard working artist, and an apprentice of every great artist he met: Émile Bernard, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Paul Gauguin, Georges Pierre Seurat, Paul Signac, Armand Guillaumin, Camille Pissarro, Paul Cézanne…
What do we make art with? Van Gogh and other painters make use of ink and canvas, pencils, brushes… and their bodies too. A painter is like a dancer, and a painting is like the “footprint of his/her dance.”
Our lives are dance. We all are alike dancers, painters, but so humble, so modest, that we do not want to leave a material footprint. Still, inevitably, we do leave a footprint: if we dance well, we inspire, if we do not dance well, we trash the environment of the dance floor; if we live well, we inspire, if we do not live well, we trash life.
Our bodies are the brush and the hand of the painter. That is why we train to develop skills to use our body and train our body to respond like a well prepared brush. The ink is our time, our space and our presence in the world. The canvas? Our world. The consumers of our art? The other people around us, which are artists too. We all participate in a collective creation.
But many times we are not engaged in our lives. We abandon our bodies to work on something we despise and then we trash it out of work. We live without being present at our life.
Our “footprint” is our behavior. Living as dancers, our values are musicality, elegance, respect and freedom. Does freedom mean doing whatever I want to do? Of course not. Freedom requires respect. If I do whatever I want to do without having consideration for the other people around me, that is not freedom. It is not elegant. It is not in good taste.
Anywhere I go, I should acknowledge whoever is there. I won’t be invisible, so, even if I try, even if I am too shy, people will notice my presence.
Anywhere I go I must learn about the values of those living there. I may not agree (and I should not hide this), but I must respect. Dancing is being in the present and “aware of being in the present” – aware of myself, the other people, the music, the space. Aware is being informed. If I am free, I can look at the eyes of others, and I am not afraid or shy of showing my eyes. Also, being free and respected allows me to embrace and be embraced for real. To be free, I need to be informed. When time does not permit me to acquire all the necessary information, I look to someone who is more informed than I am for assistance.
Be present. Listen. Speak with art. Furthermore: say it singing. With emotion. Culture helps us to give shape to our lives. A shape that is beautiful.