Breathe in now

May 28th, 2006

I’ve said this more than once, but one of my favourite things about Sunday is the arts programming on the ABC. Today I turned the TV on at about 3 and there was an interview with Jeanette Winterson. The interview (well, it was a little like a doco too) was specifically about her book ‘Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit’ because the BBC has made it into a TV series in the UK. I read the book about 2 years ago and the imagery has stayed with me – so much so that it was actually the images of the shorts of the TV series that stopped my channel surfing. It took me about 5 seconds to realise what I was watching, even without knowing it was on.


The book was very grey – the story was a little depressing, and the way she used imagery was effective yet oppressive. I enjoyed reading it though and I’ve read a few books of hers since (Written On The Body is one of the most lusciously beautiful books, language wise, perhaps ever written). Anyway, I digress.


What struck me most about Ms Winterson was her take on the world and the way she candidly spoke about her own history. She looked at where she had been and was grateful for her path, even though she’d experienced a far amount of shit in her time. She saw the pressure of the Church during her childhood as the main reason she sought solace in books and said reading the bible was a great start for a novelist. Also, she had some very well thought out ideas about art and its place in the world.


When asked if she thought art has a place in today’s world of popular culture, she described art as being -


‘An air pocket in an upturned boat.’


When I heard that it’s like a light went on in my head. I was describing it online tonight as some sort of epiphany – she managed to articulate exactly what I’ve been trying to figure out in my own head for a long time. She went on to say that art offers us space, air and silence. We need space to breath to live. Its role is to make the space we need and to stop the noise that bombards us day in day out.


The presenter said to her ‘do you feel like art really has a place in the superficiality of today’s world? She said that it was hard to live any way but superficially today, but art transcends that. She said superficiality does not come through washing the car or bathing the kids or day to day stuff – it’s a state of mind and a way of thinking. She said ‘superficial was to be found in an emptiness of mind and a hollowness of soul’. All people need profundity in their lives, more than just the banal. They need death and drama and beauty. Art offers them all of these things.


Brett Whiteley also said ‘Art is the spark that beats death’. I think he might be right.


After watching that today I kinda felt renewed in some way. I also felt, in a weird way, privileged. I see people every day who are so unaffected by the beauty in the world. They miss so much because they A) have their head rammed up their ass or B) are busy stressing about other things. I feel bad for them – it’s like they’re half living.


I’m living though. At least, I feel like I am. One day at a time.



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