Have you witnessed a happy show that haunted you for days? The happy shows are not often the memorable. There is an element of darkness that gets people’s attention. Something twinges when you witness dark work.
Darkness appeals to a cool factor in our brain. Maybe because we don’t like to verbally discuss it? Maybe it is taboo to present anything but our happy selves? Maybe we have an expectation to be good all the time? Delving into the dark side makes it seem we are doing something riské just from bearing witness?
When delving into the dark side, it is difficult to dip a toe or wade in. A plunge is the better approach to avoid a seemingly feeble attempt. A feeble attempt that you were afraid to expose the dark angel in you that you sense but silence. We have a dark angel on our shoulder whispering and tempting us. Most ignore the dark angel and go toward the light. The light is the societal pick. We want everything happy and orderly, but we know the dark is there. Seeing the dark in art has a gut wrench that can be almost naughty for the creator and the audience alike.
So why are some afraid to visit the dark side? There is potential judgement that can be devastating. That judgement can turn the work toward the light. However, there are many dark things difficult to discuss, so art allows exploration in ways words cannot describe. There was a piece I presented with a partner a couple years back about my abusive engagement. The verbal story of the engagement would give you nightmares. It truly could have been turned into a psychological horror film.
We chose to present the piece as I felt it was important to shed light on the subject. The piece made audience members cry. After witnessing it and still today, people come to discuss the piece with me not consciously understanding why it made them cry, but they mention they could not hold back the tears. That is the ability of art to reach and communicate difficult things. It is not about vindication of a subject or person nor about trying to prove a point. It is truly about communication in ways that words cannot always do justice.
There was some judgement from people once they learned what the story was telling. They felt that such a personal revelation in a public setting was something I should not have done. They were okay with being emotionally moved when it was an artistic communication, but once words were assigned to what they had witnessed and understood, then there was judgement. That is the beauty of art. You can be moved in ways words cannot move because there is a communication on a different level – a level that can have profound effect on the witness.