Sunday, February 24, 2008

A Manifesto of sorts

The following was written by Sekai, a visual artist, dancer and choreographer, to set the tone for a conference of visual artists that took place earlier this month at the Soka Gakkai International (SGI) Cultural Centre here in Montreal. Sekai is an old friend of mine, as well as a mentor of sorts. I helped him a bit with wording here and there, and the final lines emerged out of a conversation we had on what he had written -- but basically this comes out of his life, and is an expression of his nearly half-century of involvement in the arts. I think it's well worth considering by pretty well anybody.

Art is first and foremost a celebration of Life and Living.
It is a community’s means of expressing its very aliveness and well-being.
A community’s triumphs over its daily struggles are expressed and examined through the processes of creating art.
Art is the poetic manifestation of our very humanity.
Art is an activity in which all can participate and not some elitist form of showmanship.
Art is expressed in our lives in special ways, coming from out of our daily activities.
Making art is inherent in our biological (i.e. DNA) makeup.
Art in all its manifestations – music, painting, dance, theatre, images, to name a few – is a means to restoring our connections with the world and cosmos in which we inhabit, as well as restoring connections with and within ourselves, all humankind.
Art is as necessary as the very air we breathe. Without Art, it is impossible to live and raise a harmonious human society.
For those of us who practice the Buddhism of Nichiren Daishonin, art lies at the foundation of our beliefs in peace, education and culture, which humankind deserves.
We artists need not talk about art, but rather “make and do”: manifest art on a continuous, daily basis in our lives, for art enhances our lives.

SGI, by the way, is a Buddhist organization devoted to Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism, which consists, in the most summary terms, of the practice of chanting the mantra Nam Myoho Renge Kyo to raise one's life condition, and the study of the implications of that mantra. I'm happy to admit that I too am a member of that organization; while I consider myself a "Buddhist without beliefs", I do know from lengthy experience that that practice can bring great benefit, psychologically, physiologically and, by implication, within society -- much in the way that physical exercise and good eating unquestionably brings benefit. In any case, what I find interesting here is the emphasis on community, a thing notably absent in contemporary urban society. The implications of that absence are many, not the least of which is an unhealthy preoccupation with fame and celebrity.

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