Anita Katsusarka discusses how art can offer salvation in difficult times
“Lift me up, crush me down, pull me in, push me out,
Take me all, tear me apart, build me up, mold me wholesome.
Make me. Create me. I then will be.”
Ingrained on the inside-out and upside-down of my mind, these words composed the texture of that part of my being which could not be seen in the smoky ballroom, under the artificial neon stars glued to the ceiling. The light had been blue just a few seconds ago: clouds of fog were playing tricks on the eyes of the crowd, dangling the stage in front of us and threatening to engulf the man with the guitar. The other members of the band had left; only the echo of the drums from the previous song remained.
Somebody turned away the projector and the blue light tenderly defrosted and melted into the darkness of the background. A stream of white light washed over John Butler as he tuned his unique 11-string Maton guitar. I knew what was about to happen and so did my fellow-melomaniacs. It was October 11 and, for the first time ever, The Barrowland Ballroom heard Ocean– a 12-minute godpiece of something which the word ‘music’ fails to define.
What happened was art.
It was there when we arrived at the venue and saw the blinking self-referential sign with the name of the concert hall which reminded me of films, cabaret clubs, and bowling halls. It was there when the old hardwood flooring, creaking under our feet, looked up at the dim lights. It was there when, as soon as people felt the silence overcoming the excitement of the crowd, a whisper was passed from mouth to mouth, almost like a kiss: Ocean is coming…Ocean is coming. Ocean – the song – was living Art. It possessed the people who had been waiting for the Australian musician to bring his sense of freedom and peace of mind to the Glasgow gig, where he would overfill the crowd like a wave of calm and serene stillness. These whispers, transmitted automatically and genuinely aimed at spreading the blanket elation, also fell under the category of Art. We – the possessed – with our fingers trembling, our feet paralyzed, heads encircled by a twinkling aura, were also Art.
At the end of the day, the Superman cured each and every one of us by simply doing what he was best at: expressing himself without words. What kept him going after streams of sweat had started tangling in his curls was the honesty of each move his fingers made over frets and strings. He let the Art of his integrity as a person, as a musician, and as an artist flow through the spaces between the people. I reckon a Superman can be summoned in any kind of Art even if the eye of the viewer, or his ear, or his soul are locked and the key appears nowhere to be found.
It is because of this prospect of salvation that I stay up late – when everybody else is asleep – and create. Once I realized that in life I can conceive of something unseen before, I decided that physical rest (although not overrated) often charges me less than the creation of another me or another world. Art might always preserve its subjective essence, which is inscribed by the genius of the person behind its invention, but it has the capacity to speak and communicate with those standing in front of it, whether it will be in a museum, in a theater, or between pages. An invisible thread unweaves on both sides of the “transmitter-receiver” bridge. It is a sense of philia (Greek for ‘love’), affection uninterrupted by outside forces. The true definition of a safe space.
I have seen many people opening the doors to this space. Once they do it, it becomes a place filled with meaning. When my dad was going through a rough time in both his career and in his relationships he always said how, after my hug and kiss ‘Goodnight’, it was the paintbrush’s touch to the white canvas that kept him sane.
When my friend felt burned out and found herself speechless, choking on the tears running down her face while holding my hand, she remembered how she grew up enveloped in Art and wearing a stamp that said she had been destined to narrate, to show, and to expand the worldview of others through her Art.
I can’t repeat enough times that honesty always goes hand in hand with Art and it is in this candor that its healing potential exists. By generating another you, another world you hold a mirror to the same you that you have known and that you may have lost. You belong to Art and it belongs to you. No matter how far away you have gone from yourself; Art will always bring you back to who you truly are.