When it comes down to it, what a lot of artists spend most of their time doing is in trying to become more articulate. What I mean by that is they hone their craft skills and their manual dexterity, so that what they convey, through their works of art, is clear, distinct, coherent, nuanced and subtle. They want their work to communicate their dynamics, grace and fluency. In essence, what they are trying to achieve is to effortlessly convey intended meaning precisely.
The word has its origins in the idea of a jointed limb, being used with deftness and smooth, strong motions. As such, being articulate means that, as an artist, you are capable of conveying finely nuanced viewpoints.
It’s an interesting question to ask yourself: “What am I most articulate in?” When do you reach that pinnacle of fine motor movement, at which point thought, intention and the result you produce blend into one, seamless, perfect surface of pure artistic expression?
As a guitar player, I am quite articulate and I am also reasonably articulate as a music producer. It never seems like I am fluid enough, but in absolute terms, I cannot complain about a lack of expressive eloquence, in truth. When I paint, I now feel that I am beginning to master colours and light, but I feel less accomplished when it comes to those very fine brush strokes; so essential to rendering eyes, noses, mouths and hands with delicacy. I have a way to go there. My hands just don’t want to do what my brain wants them to do. As a writer, I find that I can usually craft interesting sentences and story structures and I tend to choose just the right words. The words usually come easily, too, which is another sign of fluency.
Of course, there are a great many areas of artistic expression in which I would like to achieve fluency and to be articulate, but I realise that I am far from my goal. My works, in those areas, feel clumsy, crude, coarse and unrepresentative of the ideas I am trying to convey. My technique lets me down badly. It feels almost painful to pursue those avenues, because the results do not come, no matter how hard I feel I work at it. It’s also harder to work at these things, when the rewards are so scant. You are constantly tempted to use the articulate techniques you have already mastered, instead of trying to perfect those which are still just awful.
The frustration all artists must confront and wrestle with is that we all start out clumsy and inarticulate. Consequently, we must constantly struggle to refine our skills and techniques, striving for fluency, so that we can express our ideas at the speed of thought, through our chosen medium. No matter how articulate we become, it somehow never seems fine enough. We always feel that there is more subtly of expression possible and that we can convey even more finely nuanced ideas.
Somehow, the more articulate we become, as artists, the more we are able to use our works to convey emotion and to be emotionally affective. I knew a very clever man who studied the relationship between artistic gesture and emotion; in a science he dubbed “Sentics”. It seemed to me that he had scratched the surface of a very important, but little-studied aspect of the human condition. How is it, exactly, that we take our feelings and place them onto the canvas, or embed them into a melody? Why is it that viewers and listeners can tune into those mechanical translations and still receive the emotional content that the artist placed within them? Why should the placement of words on a page excite and arouse our interest?
A bigger question, as an artist, is why we even bother. Why do we try so hard to convey our ideas, through our works of art, to other people, in a way that will move and engage them? I claim that this is an existential question. Let me explain.
I dissent, often. I disagree profoundly with ideas that most people accept as articles of orthodox faith, without question. The ideas in my head are largely at odds with the commonly agreed notions that people tacitly assume. I don’t share their mass hallucination. This is across a wide range of subjects and matters of importance to life. I just don’t agree with much that I am obliged to comply with and obey. It could be argued that this is because I adhere to a hallucination of my own, but I feel that at least some of my ideas are based on observable, evidential truth. I am equally certain that this is not true for the more common mass hallucination adhered to by most people.
Given that my internal life is so at odds with the real world I must live in and try to survive, what can I do? I can make art. I can try to convey my unconventional ideas through my work, so that I have the chance of sharing what is inside me with other people, with whom it might resonate. For that reason, being articulate is so important. If I break the chain of emotional conveyance, then the art is for nothing. If I cannot communicate what lies inside my mind, then I cease to exist in any meaningful way as an individual. I become a true cog in a machine not of my design. That’s why I strive constantly to become more articulate.
Having your say is at the very heart of what is meant by liberty. Being able to gently influence and shape the world, for the better, while existing in it as you best see fit, is what it means to be free. Yet, I live in a world that increasingly tells you to shut up, obey, conform, listen to the authorities and do as you are told. We are also told there is no alternative. That which should be gentle nudges and suggestions for better ways of living your life, which you are free to accept and embrace, or discard and ignore, as you choose, have instead become brutal, ugly, blunt-force traumas on your psyche, delivered by self-appointed authorities. Their reality is whatever they can get away with. Their mandates are delivered with menaces and threats, via the expedient of violence, organised on an industrial scale, with a jack boot upon your throat.
Remaining relatively inarticulate, in the face of this assault on humanity, when I need to be very articulate indeed, frankly distresses me. There is so much that needs to be said. There are so many people who need to be reached emotionally, because they are locked into a reality that numbs them to the concerns of other people. They dream a narcotic set of beliefs that are, in truth, leading all of us to the brink of oblivion. The ideas they uphold are toxic to a thriving planet, populated by free, happy beings, at liberty and peace. Yet they won’t wake up. These people will not be snapped out of their stupor and reconnect with humanity. They proceed, zombie-like, to despoil and destroy, harm and hamper, justifying their actions on the basis of their poisonous, propagandised mass hallucinations.
I must make art to share my point of view and to make tangible, ideas that are mere abstractions in my imagination. Better is possible. We have not exhausted, or honestly tried, all the alternative ways of organising human society, consistent with surviving and thriving. Our ways of existing, today, let the vast majority of us down. In short, the prevailing ideas of how to run an economy, how to organise a society and how to empower individuals, have let us down badly and the evidence is abundant. Yet, most people choose to ignore what is plain and unarguable. I live amongst the wilfully inarticulate and I disagree with the orthodoxy, on most things. I don’t think increasing wealth inequality will deliver a good life for all earthlings. I sincerely doubt that our authorities know what they are doing, have any wisdom whatsoever, can be trusted and are not hell bent on destruction. Scientists are, in many cases, far from objective. I think people are largely blinded by greed, selfishness, short-termism and an extractive mindset that requires violent conquest. I’m surrounded by people who think (other) people can’t be trusted to think for themselves, so they impose elaborate systems of thought control, led by people in command who…actually can’t be trusted to think for themselves? It makes no sense at all, to me.
Articulation represents my personal battle against alienation and invisibility. It is my desperate, last ditch attempt to try to expose possibilities that most haven’t considered or even suspected. I don’t have a monopoly on wisdom either, but I grow weary of people in charge who make the claim that they do. It cannot be true, yet society is largely organised around the assumption that it is. If that is not representative of collective insanity, I can’t think of a more lucid example.
Your articulation is the super power you most fear losing and it is one of the first to go, if you don’t cherish, honour, exercise, hone and use it. Comedian and actor Billy Connolly recently announced that he has been forced to give up the banjo, a beloved instrument that was one of his most articulate means of self-expression, because Parkinson’s disease has so badly affected his left hand. I can think of few things sadder. This man has been able to reach thousands of people emotionally and change minds, through laughter, gentle ridicule and joy. What a shining example.
We should all be so articulate.