Monday, 23 February 2015

Defending Dionysus: Putting the Art in P"art"y.

Looking over interviews with comic book writers like Alan Moore and Grant Morrison one could be led to believe that there is an overlap between brilliant artists and practitioners of new-age "magick".

As a secular person I take Moore and Morrison's metaphysical ramblings with very little seriousness but both of them bring attention to an interesting analogy between art and magick*

According to the above authors, Magick is like art in that it is the practise of arranging symbols to produce profound emotional responses. Art at its root is just the manipualtion of the mind via our secular senses. When building a cathedral, a 15th century architect might install a high-roof to inflict a sense of awe onto onlookers. Songwriters likewise will scribe in a minor chord to match their dirge's lyrical content. We could spend all day discussing the various "cause, effect" relationships that underpin arts ability to move us: my point has been made..

There is something distinctly magical about any kind of creative endeavour that achieves its desired effect. Take for instance the preparation of a pepper-corn sauce. The chef burns off some whiskey, mixes in cream, adds gravy, allows the mix to reduce in the pan and finally chucks in a fistful of peppercorns. The result is a sauce that through the combination of its individual components, achieves a qualia greater than the sum of its parts.

I am quite fond of this definition of art and accordingly I will now use it to discuss party planning as a serious artistic medium.

While the act of enjoying a party is often a relatively dumb activity**, the act of designing a party has the potential to be a highly cognitive and artful process. As someone orchestrating a connoisseurs revel you control the refreshments,  the dress code, the music, the ambient noise, the spatial layout, the whole visual, gastronomic, social and auditory aesthetic is yours to act on, adjust and perfect.

What's more, you can design and select activities to take place at the party. You can use a party to play host to party games.

Indeed the prime contribution that video games have made to artistic understanding is the mediums emphasise on interactivity. Video games have helped us to think of active doing, as opposed to passive listening or watching, as a way to communicate with audiences and at the very least the principles at play in video games can be carried across to party games. Afterall they are both games, just with differing forms of simultion.

For anyone curious, I am thinking along lines less cliche than spin the bottle: though that might actually work as a sort of semi-ironic nostalgia peice. An alternate example would perhpas be a party with the theme "Intrigue" which includes a game where guests try to outwit eachother to accomplish their own competing clandestine objectives, perhaps with booze as an incentive.

If art is the arrangement of symbols to invoke experience then what medium offers the artist a more immersive and developed platform upon which to work their magic, than a party?***

*I use the "magick" spelling to specify it as a religious/spiritual practise distinct from "magic" which denotes the practise of deceiving small children and boring your family members at wedding receptions.

** In fairness the same is true for experiencing music, film or any other medium of creativity.

*** It goes without saying that there are many limiting facets at play here which I have not mentioned. Parties are generally held for fun and so one may struggle to justify a party that explores depression or the horrors of war. Unless a cultural revolution takes place and artists begin to orchestrate and direct parties in unusual ways we may not be able to progress past partying as having "a grande old time".

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