I played a game of Charades recently and, as the game progressed, I made a realization– namely, that few other activities exemplify what I mean by “the art of seeing” better than a round of Charades.
In my experience of the game, the chosen topics for silent enactment are often art forms; movies, plays, musicals, operas, songs, buildings, books and quotes all provide the fodder for the game. Even—as was the case of my most recent gaming experience–works of sculpture and painting can be included. YOU try acting out Picasso’s GUERNICA!
There is, in the playing of the game, rapt attention paid by both the ‘enactor’ and the rest of his or her team. Your team stares at you, trying to SEE the particular piece of art you are representing in creative mime and you hurl your silent energies towards making them “SEE.”
Frustration is to be expected from both sides. For example, during one of my turns as the enactor, I chose to scratch my crotch—perhaps somewhat excessively—having made the decision that there was no clearer representation of the word “sand.” What I wanted to lead my team towards, actually, was the word “beach.” And “beach’ would then hopefully lead them to the film ON THE BEACH.
Well, I scratched and scratched and then laid down on the floor whilst shielding my eyes from an imaginary sun. And scratched some more. I sweated, too, but not from the heat of my made up sun, but because of anger rising inside of me at the blind obstinacy of my teammates. Why couldn’t they see what this itching meant? Not poison oak, you idiots, SAND!
Finally—and don’t ask me to remember what gesture or facial expression broke through to them– someone on my team had that wondrous ‘Aha!’ moment. Bliss. Relief. Exultation. They grokked my meaning! They saw my representation, in this case, of a cinematic work of art.
I decided that the amount of concentration necessary in the playing of Charades mirrors the level of attention that all art asks us to invest. And when we occasionally “see” an artist’s vision, we are rewarded with ‘Aha!’
Art is everywhere. Yet, “seeing” art requires our energies focused on the present moment—minus the excessive scratching. Art can be flowers that have miraculously woven their way through a weathered fence and captured in a photograph just as significantly as the Mona Lisa is understood by most as art. Even without allowing for that breadth of definition, much of what is universally acknowledged as ‘art’ goes by us unheeded; how often have I simply walked past a, say, Richard Meier building, me distracted and hence unseeing and sadly untouched by his shimmering towers of steel and glass.
Our spectator job is, it would seem, to be available to more of those wonderful “Aha” moments. And in allowing ourselves more opportunities to “see” the world of art all around us, we might, most profoundly, be rewarded with a glimpse of our significance in the midst of it all.