Why Do We Make Art?


O P I N I O N


Richita Tarafder


Why do I make art?

It’s more like an unsettling question. “Why do you write?” or “Why do you paint?” Simply, “Why do you make art?” The answer should be pretty simple. “I make art, because I can.” And then this answer is what becomes the unsettling statement. The questioner is not entirely satisfied with the “because I can” reply.

However, for their mental satisfaction, I’ll try to elaborate on the answer to this age-old question of “why” behind art. You see, we were born in a society where art is seen as a supplier. As a provider. To explain, any kind of creative work is envisioned to be a financial alternative to a “stable” or “decent” job. If not, it’s a waste of time. For lack of a better word, useless. If you’re being happy doing mediocre artistic works that have no demanding market value, if it’s bringing you harmless joy, if that’s your coping mechanism to survive in this world, cut it off. It doesn’t bring you money? Simple. It shouldn’t be done. That’s how the system has always worked.

I want to simply question this methodology. Why should art bring us financial independence? What I mean is, it’s a bonus if it does. But it’s not meant to. Art is not meant to do any kind of point proving. Art is not supposed to be corporate. Once again, it’s great if it is. But we don’t necessarily have to excel at the things we love doing. It’s alright to weave our teenage fantasies writing amateur fan-fictions. It’s alright if our two lines of poetries are: “I love you. I love you very much.” It’s okay. It doesn’t have to have deeper abstract meanings and involve complicated almost-impossible-to-pronounce words. Our cakes don’t have to be the best we’ve ever tasted. It can be overbaked, underbaked; eggs can be overused; the decoration can be a complete disaster. But what I want to say is, it’s fine. We’ve imagined our ideal fictional characters and written those fanfics. We’ve written that questionable poetry for someone we so deeply loved. We’ve baked the cake not because we wanted to prove anything. Maybe we were simply hungry. Or maybe we just wanted to bake.

After all, the world doesn’t have enough art. The universe lacks artists. When we paint, write, hum, dance, it’s a very mundane way of expressing our happiness. I think we’re cute that way. Doing that little dance move when we’re alone at home. Stirring the tea, humming old songs in the evening. Doodling two lines in maths copy thinking about the love we’ve lost. See? That’s art. That’s what humans do. That’s what we simply survive through. It’s not supposed to bring us money. We don’t write poetries to be famous and photographed by paparazzi. We don’t bake or cook to be channelled on cooking shows.

It’s time we stopped questioning art and artists. It’s high time we let people do what they wish to. Look, we’re not in this world for a long long time. We’ll all soon die. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe this moment. We don’t need to spend our time asking people what their “real” job is. Or if they’re passionate enough about their art to make money out of it. Business is nothing bad. What I condemn is to pressurise the business on artists. To impose upon them that what they’re doing is no good if it’s only bringing them joy and no money. 

Why do I write? I’m trying to mother the child in me. I’m trying to be soft and gentle to the baby that I am. I’m trying to pat my head and whisper, “It’s okay to do what you love. Even if it’s not bringing you a million dollars.” I’m adulting. Responsibilities are rushing my way. I’m in charge of my life. I’ll have to make it secure. And ponder over my future. But that does not mean I’ll have to give up on habits that simply provide me with happiness. I prioritise my joy in little things without expecting monetary benefits from them. My writings, my arts are not supposed to bring me money. They’re not supposed to make me autograph worthy. They’re meant to make me happy. And I tell you, they’re doing a good enough job with that.

So did I make myself clear about why I write? I write because poets can write, “Brush your skin against mine, press your heart to my heart and let’s fade away into the constellation,” which might simply mean, “Um let’s—you know—um let’s go to bed together.” See, I’m trying to be polite through poetry. So happy art to everyone who is an artist with no expectations, no conditions. Cheers to us who will always believe our arts are our children and they don’t owe us anything. 

Why do we make art? Because we can.

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