Fischer, Ernst. La necesidad del arte

Fischer, E. (1978). La necesidad del arte. Barcelona: Península. Quinta edición.

Capítulo I. La función del arte

Fischer, E. (1963). The necessity of art: A marxist approach. England: Penguin books.

Art as ‘life substitute’, art as means of putting man in a state of equilibrium with the sorrounding world – the idea contains a partial recognition of the nature of art and its necessity. And since a perpetual equilibrium between man and the surrounding world cannot be expected to exist even in the most highly developed society, the idea suggests, too, that art was not merely necessary in the past but will always remain so. (Fischer:1963;7)

Why is it distracting, relaxing, entertaining to sink oneself in someone else’s life and problems, to identify oneself with a painting or a piece of music or with the characters in a novel, play or film? Why do we respond to such ‘unreality’ as though it were reality intensified? What strange, mysterious entertainment is this? And if one answers that we want to escape from an unsatisfactory existence into a richer one, into experience without risk, then the next question arises: why is our own existence not enough? Why this desire to fulfill our unfulfilled lives through other figures, other forms, to gaze from the darkness of an auditorium at a lighted stage where something that is only play can so utterly absorb us? (Fischer:1963;8)

Art is the indispensable means for this merging of the individual with the whole. It reflects his infinite capacity for association, for sharing experiences and ideas. (Fischer:1963;8)

In order to be an artist it is necessary to seize, hold and transform experience into memory, memory into expression, material into form. Emotion for an artist is not everything; he must also know his trade and enjoy it, understand the rules, skills, forms, and conventions whereby nature – the shrew – can be tamed and subjected to the contract of art. The passion that consumes the dilettante serves the true artist: the artist is not mauled by the beast, he tames it. (Fischer:1963;9)

Our theatre must encourage the thrill of comprehension and train people in the pleasure of changing reality. Our audiences must not only hear how Prometheus was set free, but also train themselves in the pleasure of freeing him. They must be taught to feel, in our theatre, all the satisfaction and enjoyment felt by the inventor and the discoverer, all the triumph felt by the liberator. (Fischer:1963;10)

We should never underestimate the degree of continuity throughout the class struggle, despite periods of violent change and social upheaval. Like the world itself, the history of mankind is not only a contradictory discontinuum but also a continuum. Ancient, apparently long-forgotten things are preserved within us, continue to work upon us – often without our realizing it – and then, suddenly, they come to the surface and speak to us (Fischer:1963;12)

We may conclude from a constantly growing  wealth of evidence that art  in its origins was magic, a magic aid towards mattering a real but unexplored world. Religion, science, and art were combined in a latent form – germinally as it were – in magic. This magic role of art has progressively given way to the role of illuminating social relationships, of enlightening men in societies becoming opaque, of helping men to recognize and change social reality. A highly complex society with its multiple relationships and social contradictions can no longer be represented in the manner of a myth. In such a society, which demands literal recognition and all-embracing consciousness, there is bound to be an overwhelming need to break through the rigid forms of earlier ages where the magic element still operated, and to arrive at more open forms – at the freedom, say, of the novel. Either of the two elements of art may predominate at a particular time, depending on the state of society reached – sometimes the magically suggestive, at other times the rational and enlighting; sometimes dreamlike intuition, at other times the desire to sharpen perception. But whether art soothes or awakens, casts shadows or brings light, it is never merely a clinical description of reality. Its function is always to move the whole man, to enable the ‘I’ to identify itself with another’s life, to make its own what it is not and yet capable of being. (Fischer:1963;13)

A collective working progress requires a coordinating working rhythm. this working rhythm is supported by a more or less articulated unison chant. Such chants… are essential to the rhythmic accomplishment of the work. In such refrains, which have a certain magic attaching to them, the individual preserves the collective even if he is working outside it (Fischer:1963;30)

The first toolmaker, when he gave new form to a stone so it might serve man, was the first artist. the first name-giver was also a great artist when he singled out an object from the vastness of nature, tamed it by means of a sign, and handed over this creature of language as an instrument of power to the other men. The first organizer who synchronized the working process by means of a rhythmic chant and so increased the collective strength of man was a prophet in art. The first hunter who disguised himself as an animal and by means of this identification with his prey increased the yield of the hunt, the first stone-age man who marked a tool or a weapon by a special notch or ornament, the first chieftain who stretched an animal’s skin over a lump of rock or the stump of a tree in order to attract animals of the same kind – all these were the forefathers of art (Fischer:1963;33)

And yet, in creating art, he found for himself a real way of increasing his power and enriching his life. The frenzied tribal dances before a hunt really did increase the tribe’s sense of power; war paint and war cries really did make the warrior more resolute and were apt to terrify the enemy. Cave paintings of animal really helped to build up the hunter’s sense of security and superiority over his prey. Religious ceremonies with their strict conventions really helped to instil social experience in every member of a tribe and to make every individual part of the collective body. Man, the weak creature confronting dangerous, incomprehensible, terrifying Nature, was greatly helped in his development by magic. (Fischer:1963;36)

The attraction of shinig, gleaming, glittering things… and the irresistible attraction of light may have played their part in the birth of art. Sexual allurement – bright colors, pungent smells, splendid coatsand feathers in the animal world, jewels and fine clothes, seductive words and gestures among humans – may have provide a stimulus <<para los orígenes del arte>>. The rhythms of organic and inorganic nature – of heartbeat, breathing, sexual intercourse – the rhythmic recurrence of processes or elements of form and the pleasure derived from these, and, last but not least, working rhythms – may have played an important part. Rhythmical movements assist work, coordinates effort, and connects the individual with a social group. Every disturbance of the rhythm is disagreeable because it interferes with the processes of life and work; and so we find rhythm assimilated in the arts as the repetition of a constant, as proportion and symmetry. And, lastly, an essential element of the art is a fearsome, the awe-inspiring, and that wich is supposed to confer power over an enemy. Clearly the decisive function of art was to exert power – power over nature, an enemy, a sexual partner, power over reality, power to strengthen the human collective. Art in the dawn of humanity had little to do with any aesthetic desire: it was a magic tool or weapon of the human collective in its struggle for survival. (Fischer:1963;35)

Art was not an individual but a collective production, although the first characteristics of individuality began to declare themselves tentatively in the sorcerer. Primitive society meant a dense, close-knit form of collectivism. Nothing was more terrible than to be cast out of collective and to remain alone. Separation of the individual from the group or the tribe meant death; the collective meant life and the content of life. Art in all its forms – language, dance, rhythmic chants, magic ceremonies – was the social activity par excellence, common to all and raising all men above nature and the animal world. Art has never wholly lost this collective, even long after the primitive collective had broken down and been replaced by a society of classes and individuals. (Fischer:1963;38)