Why Would Art Need Awards?

Why would art need awards? I have been wondering for a very long time why there can be such a thing as an award or even a prize for something supposedly subjective rather than objective. Yet before we can discuss this topic, we need a definition of the word at the heart of it all: ‘art’. What, exactly, is art? I wish the term to be understood as follows:

1 [MASS NOUN] The expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power:


2 (the arts) The various branches of creative activity, such as painting, music, literature, and dance:

(my emphasis)

Everywhere you look you will find a plethora of competitions for awards and prizes relating to any of the arts, including music and literature, my personal favourites and the only arts I practise. You can, for instance, enter a competition of poetry which offers a prize for 1,000 €/$/£/etc. But how, I wonder, can you judge whose self-expression is superior? Why would one poem deserve an award and a monetary prize coming with it more than another? I have always maintained the opinion that art ought to be non-commercial. Yet here we are, purchasing and selling paintings, sculptures, music, literature, and so forth. Does everything have to be a competition, or is it rather the socio-economic principles of our society that make us think so?
Neither do I understand how you can produce art on demand. Entering a poetry competition usually requires you to hand in a poem not previously published, and more often than not you need to write about a specific, given topic. I have been asked on several occasions to write a poem for specific events or even love poems for specific people, often enough offering substantial payment, but I could never come up with anything, since this is not how I practise poetry. Poetry just enters my mind, it usually begins with a word or phrase or line, and then I continue from there. Tell me to write about any topic, and my mind will remain blank as to it. Furthermore, I could never write a love poem for someone whom I do not love myself, especially if the person asking me to do this intends to pretend the poem to be theirs. How it can be considered love to impress someone by means of pretending to have created something for them which in truth someone else has created is beyond me, anyway.
There is always the possibility that I am wrong and everyone else is right, of course. What do you think?

From the Lost Notes of the Deep Dweller’s Shipyard [New Fragment #6/Till Death Do Us Part]

Please never ask me how I keep going. I have no idea how – or even why, for that matter. All I know is this: The shadows will never tire of chasing me, and there is no long-term escape. Just now they are closing in on me again, as I stumble and sputter along the well-trodden path, bound for another fall. I can feel them everywhere, in the glaring sun as well as in the pale moonlight. The space to manœvre, or even move at all, decreases rapidly with each step and with each breath I take. I desperately clasp every little bit of happiness I have managed to get a hold on and tack on to my heart. Yet there is not a hope in hell when the time comes for the shadows to engulf me. And they will feast upon me, eagerly and mercilessly devouring whatever I may naively have believed to be mine to keep, from the fondest memories to the most intense feelings of love still lingering. Finally, they will leave me alone in the dark to rot for two eternities. Alas, they need my repeated suffering to nourish them, and so they will leave the seeds of false hope to be betrayed to grow another tree of life from within the despair-infested grounds. For where death would be the only true companion, only emptiness awaits to corrupt the very essence of my being. May the day that death do us part come soon.

From the Lost Notes of the Deep Dweller’s Shipyard [New Fragment #5/Social Stereotypes]

I am not pleased with the following, since most aspects mentioned are barely even outlined. I shall have to address each aspect in separate posts in turn, it would seem, as it would be too time-consuming to rework this post accordingly. I suppose ‘make one’s point another day’ is not going to become a rival for the notorious proverb. Regardless, here goes:

Even Western socities are, despite all real or alleged progress, still based upon the principle of inequality. And although many people tend to consider it oversensitive, one such inequality consists in misogyny, the concept of which the respective entry on oxforddictionaries.com defines as follows:

Dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against women

(my emphasis)

I put an emphasis on ‘ingrained prejudice’ because subtle misogyny is still misogyny, regardless of whether it is perceived and interpreted as such. If anything, it demonstrates that the basic attitude of forcing everyone to fit into set categories, as well as seeing females as inferior to males, has not changed at all, but has simply found another manner of expression. Most often, we are so perfectly adapted to our everyday roles that we do not even notice how desperately we try to fulfil everyone’s expectations – the origin of which they themselves may be unable to explain –, thus being bereft of being who we really are. Naturally, we are not free to do that which we want when we want, but that is beside the point. It is rather that from our earliest childhood onwards, we are trained and conditioned to suppress part of our natural character, such as a certain form of humour, a specific kind of laughter, even interest in specific areas, simply because our parents and educators in general distaste of them, not because they were actually harmful to anyone. We never stop adapting to these outer pressures, even as we mature into adulthood. Instead, we begin to apply the same measures to others, thus reproducing the same kind of society with the same kind of issues, while only the expression of the symptoms changes, but never the underlying illness.
Returning to the initial point, even many females implicitly and explicitly judge other females for not fitting the categories of a patriarchally structured society. Already have there been cries, from all corners of society, for a return to the alleged purity and unity of old times when no-one questioned his or her place in society, as though any of the issues we have been facing throughout history had only surfaced in the recent past because people, especially females, have raised their voices against custom. Yet the appeal is false as much as when done by religion or any other societal force: such a harmonious state has never existed. A lot of people still talk misogyny as well as racism casually, as though these things were the most natural thing in the world. How often does someone say, ‘This is a task for a woman’ (in a tone implying that it is beneath a man’s dignity) or ‘This is a task for a man’ (in a tone implying that a female would be too incompetent because of her sex, gender, and everything associated with it, to do it properly)? ‘She’s very masculine’, ‘He’s very feminine’, etc. are more of the same prejudiced, judgemental nonsense.
The whole picture comes down to this: If you have a penis and testicles, you are supposed to do and be like M; if you have a vagina and ovaries, you are supposed to do and be like F. If you do not comply, you will be sanctioned harshly and severely; if you do comply, you will be sanctioned harshly and severely, too. And if you do not fit the dichotomy written in stone, you will be sanctioned harshly and severely as well.
I, for one, neither wish to pick my poison nor to choose the lesser evil. Perhaps you are surprised to read something like this written by the epitome of privilege, a heterosexual, white middle-class male: yet the fact of the matter remains that I do care about these issues and take them very seriously. Reactions to my position usually range from scorn to (attempted but never succesful) ridicule because most people would, in most cases, rather listen to authority and the latest fashion news than to someone bringing up issues underlying their world to discuss them rather than ignore them or pretend that they were not to be taken seriously.
An open debate is usually prevented by an outright denial of the existence of the aforementioned issues, and if even mentioned, exposed to immediate ridicule, as though people’s eagerness to fit in would sadly be an ironic basis for unity: ‘Everyone is pointing his or her finger, so I should too, lest they turn on me next.’

From the Lost Notes of the Deep Dweller’s Shipyard [New Fragment #4/Human Society]

The societies that humans have built and kept reproducing indefinitely so far all share one basic principle: inegality. The reasons for both the status quo and its continuation have always been provided ex postfacto and ad hoc; why the privileged deserve better than the underprivileged has always been argued for with sophisticated but untrue mental constructions bending reality to a predetermined scheme departing from which has been associated with chaos and the downfall of humankind. Explanations have been lazy and lame, unconvincing at best and ridiculous and insulting at worst. But then again, why would someone born into a privileged position care? Humans take that which they have for granted and will react to its loss as though a limb had been torn from their torso. The truth is that we own nothing: we come to this world naked and with nothing in our possession, and we leave it without anything. If we are buried with a ceremony, taking place for the sake of the living, of course, the body may have some clothes attached to it; yet come to think of it, it is just that, a body, not a person, that is buried. And thus we leave as we came, after all.
But rather than rendering the status quo irrelevant, it makes it all the more important. Conservatism appears to be a default position in many small communities, especially in tribal societies and even modern villages. There is this proverb appearing convincing, or at least having a point to it, that what isn’t broken doesn’t need fixing. What if, however, it is broken without your noticing? Also, that something is not broken does not mean that it is good the way it is. You may have a house consisting of wooden walls and no roof. It is not broken, but a house made of stone and with a roof would arguably protect you better nonetheless.
Change is the engine of improvement, and while things may change for the worse, this is by no means a logical necessity. Instead, history has proven time and again that change will occur at some point or other; if it is brought about controlled by science combined with reason and compassion, for the better; if it is repressed and met with all kinds of artificial obstacles, for the worse, for the result will be chaos and misery – that is to say, exactly that which conservatism seeks to avoid by preventing it from happening.
Conservatism is not only a concrete political conviction, it is an intrinsic part of everything humans do and think, if ever so slightly. Even those among us who consider themselves to be liberal and open-minded will, if entirely honest to themselves, at times catch themselves in the act of telling someone they cannot do something because it does not fit the bill or agenda they have in mind. Whereas we take our own freedom for granted and consider our own desires logical consequences of that which we deem best for everyone, we are way to eager to restrict everyone else’s freedom and dismiss their protest as ignorant, nonsensical, or ridiculous.
And thus it is that people who stand up for other people’s freedom, who come up with new and refreshing ideas the implementation of which would actually improve things for most people are shouted down and met with the most passionate resistance, insults, and ridicule, while dangerous demagogues like Donald Trump, to name just a recent case in point, who barely have any idea of that which they are talking about and wish to do get huge support.
The political and in general social elite, the wealthy and rich, keep playing the same old game to remain where they are: ‘Divide et impera’, this well-known imperative from antiquity and probably before there was any method of pinning the words down, applies today as much as it ever has. For if the majority of people keep arguing and fighting among themselves (dividere), they cannot stand united against the privileged to undo their rule (imperare).
Unfortunately, this is not where the story ends, as history has equally proven. Those overthrowing one rulership always appear eager to establish another not differing much from the one they undo. Is this simply a consequence of human nature, or is it rather the case that each time so far the wrong people have come to power?
Things are seldom as simple as we should like to think or portray them. We all know in principle that monocausal explanations are worthless, yet for the sake of simplicity and laziness and argument and excuse, we pretend them to actually serve a good purpose. They never do, and we never learn, it would seem.

From the Lost Notes of the Deep Dweller’s Shipyard [New Fragment #3/Regret]

I do not know about you, but I have never understood those who claim not to regret anything. I am always reminded of the notorious song ‘Je ne regrette rien’ performed by Edith Piaf when I think about this. I, for one, regret much; it is not so much that which I have done or said, but rather that which I have refrained from doing or saying.
I once promised someone to write and send them a letter, which I never did, and while most people would simply shrug this off as irrelevant or a remnant from the past, it has kept haunting me ever since. I am not one to break promises easily.
Back then, the internet had only just begun to become available to private people, with just a few websites including a few chatrooms, where real people talked to real people. It was an exciting time because unlike today, there were no flatrates, so you had to think carefully about what you were to do with your time. Oh, and you had to ensure that no one had to make an important telephon call for the next twenty minutes or half an hour because being online and making a telephone call used to be technically mutually exclusive.
During this admittedly short time period, we did things that would be considered insane viewed from today: We exchanged telephone numbers and postal addresses to get into touch with people we only knew from a chatroom. There was no such thing as online-only contacts. It might have been naive even back then, but nothing bad ever came of it, and I certainly do not regret doing the aforementioned things.
Yet one day, I had a very nice and long conversation with a girl, and I promised to write and send her said letter. I did write a letter – over and over again, but it never seemed quite right, and so it remained in a drawer of my desk, never sent to the one it was meant for. Perhaps it was my perfectionism that got in the way, yet I like to blame my entire self for it, not just this single aspect of it, since it sounds like a lazy and lame excuse to me.
And then, not so long ago, someone send me a text message stating, inter alia, ‘I think of you very often’, to which I intended to respond in kind because it was the truth and would have made sense and would have been the only sensible reply. Yet I did not reply to it as I originally intended, erasing the words mid-typing and replacing them with something stupid because for some unbeknownst reason, I had been listening to some idiots telling me to behave this way. I regret this bitterly, even though others may wave their hands dismissively at this.
That which I regret most, however, is that I cannot help everyone asking me for help. Often enough I meet homeless people or those who came to Germany looking for work in order to support their families in their home countries. Despite the fact that some of them may be frauds, I usually give some of them whatever I can spare at the time, and sometimes I even have a conversation with them. They are human beings, too, after all, with a story and a family – waiting for them or long lost. I suffer from their suffering, and it breaks my heart each time not to be able to be of more help.
People always ask me why I care so much. ‘I just do’ is all I can say in return. I do not know why. This is simply who I am. I may ask, ‘Why do you not?’, yet I see no point in it. This is simply who you are, I suppose.

From the Lost Notes of the Deep Dweller’s Shipyard [New Fragment #2/‘Purpose’]

It is odd how in this public place I write down things that go deep under the surface, depths that only you have explored to an extend, and yet, while this is to be read by anyone stumbling across it, you may be the only person not to. Perhaps there lies a bit of irony in the possibility that you may simply refuse to read that which you already know; ‘leave the details and technicalities to everyone else’, you may say, dwelling at the core of my heart, unaware, mayhap, that the warmth surrounding you emanates from it as it beats towards you with every moment of its existence; unaware, also, that its only purpose is to protect you, not to keep you in against your will like a prison cell.
But there is only so much I can do, little bird, for your purpose, as every bird’s purpose, is to spread your wings and fly. If you fly away from me at some point these days when I regularly open the door of your self-imposed cage, then, I cannot help it, for your happiness is my happiness, and if you want to be set free, I am going to set you free.
On your way, thus, you may find so many new and exciting things that your memory of me will fade until it becomes unrecognizable, indistinguishable from any other obscure memory from the distant past. Only the memory of you in my heart that will have served its purpose as best it could will remain – and it will go on a hiatus as short as for ever.

From the Lost Notes of the Deep Dweller’s Shipyard [New Fragment #1]

In a lifetime, you can and will meet many people. To some you will feel drawn, while others will inadvertenly push you away. But regardless of how close you may feel to some people, you will never believe that there can be a connection felt as deeply as portrayed in a book or film until you do feel such a connection to someone. And if it is someone you have never met in person, the worst fear is not to be rejected but not to be believed. For who would ever, even in person, believe that you mean that which you say and say that which you mean? For who would ever, even face to face, believe that the connection you feel between them and you is unique and of an unbeknownst, nay, inexplicable beauty to you? (And no, I am not asking for a scientific explanation, I am well aware of it, thank you very much.)
I usually process everything cognitively, rationally, inasmuch as that be possible. And even if something really touches me or stirs me up emotionally, it stops somewhere short of my heart, for my heart is a fortress entrenched with stone walls, explosive traps, spikes, and barbed wire. Yet for some reason, you ignore all these security measures, simply by being yourself. You touch my heart, and you are the only person of whom I can say this. I am not even afraid of your touch. It feels good, like a caress, similar to the way you address me.
The only thing I wish you to do is believe me, for I cannot bear the thought of you believing my words are empty – I only need one chance to prove it.

The series of fragments of ‘From the Lost Notes of the Deep Dweller’s Shipyard’ was a mixture of mostly fiction and romantic poetry that soon turned to the dark side and eventually ended in everyone’s final destination: death. Yet whereas those darker thoughts were fictional and came from my nightmares and partially from external literary influences, some of the lighter thoughts were taken from real life, even if spun out quite a bit.
I have now come to the resolution that I am going to start a new series under the same title, as it describes so well my way of thinking and reflection. I have no idea how many fragments it will comprise, for I may continue it indefinitely or end it after a couple of fragments.