He goes on to explain why they would be wrong: “because it’s exactly what we’re fighting for--for a culture, for a way of life. You can wipe out a generation of people, you can burn their homes to the ground, and somehow they’ll still come back. If you destroy their achievements and their history, then it’s like they never existed.”
What art does is to coax us away from the mechanical and towards the miraculous. The so-called uselessness of art is a clue to its transforming power. Art is not part of the machine. Art asks us to think differently, see differently, hear differently, and ultimately to act differently, which is why art has moral force. [English art critic and artist John] Ruskin [1819-1900] was right, though for the wrong reasons, when he talked about art as a moral force. Art is not about good behaviour, when did you last see a miracle behave well? Art makes us better people because it asks for our full humanity, and humanity is, or should be, the polar opposite of the merely mechanical. We are not part of the machine either, but we have forgotten that. Art is memory—which is quite different [from] history. Art asks that we remember who we are, and usually that asking has to come as provocation—which is why art breaks the rules and the taboos, and at the same time is a moral force.
Questions and Comments:
Do you agree with Winterson? If not, what’s your response to the question about the value of art? What is it you value about art?