Artists’ Role in the Image of Los Angeles
Art is a unique phenomenon. On the one hand, it is a form of social consciousness, which primarily records aesthetic attitudes to the world, but, on the other hand, it is an intellectual development of the objective world by means of the image and change of the world according to the ideas about how it should be. This paper will discuss how Anna Deavere Smith explains and evaluates her role as an artist in the “Introduction” to “Twilight” in relation to the way Tod Hackett envisions his role as an artist in “The Day of the Locust”.
The aesthetic attitude, which was formed at the dawn of human society, is always in the process of incessant change and development. People tastes, their ideals, and aesthetic experience constantly change. They say an artistic development of humanity is progressing. Every form of social consciousness captures the surrounding reality by specific means. With the help of concepts and terms it is developing the surrounding reality in philosophy and science, using the standards of morality.
The form of the reflection of reality in art is an image. It is a unit of thoughts that is based on the principle of free associative links and designed to deduce the content of thinking and guessing. Therefore, art does not only reflect reality, it also creates a special world – the one of images, which is relatively independent. In accordance with the nature of art and its inherent aspects, such as aesthetic, cognitive, and ideological, works of art are evaluated in terms of beauty, truth, and ideology.
Any form of social consciousness, including art, is connected with reality through its functions. The knowledge of reality, an active ideological and aesthetic transformation of an artist’s life material, and the creation of a work of art are only one side. The other side is a meaningful impact on people’s behavior, their feelings and thoughts, their spiritual transformation as consumers of art, according to the direction of development of the society in which they live. The power of art is the direct and indirect impact on a person and the whole society through him/her.
It is impossible to talk about art without mentioning literature. The main tool of literature is the word. An author tries to captivate the reader, incite him/her to take action, make his/her presence in time and space real through images created with the word. This participation is necessary for the reader to understand the written work fully: so that he/she begins worrying about something, trying to understand the reasons for actions and the complex spiritual world of a hero, the tragedy of the action. It is the perception or profound experience that shows that literature is the art of the word.
Human society is closely related to the concept of art and literature. It is necessary to note that these concepts have arisen due to the evolution of mankind. There are many forms of art, some of them are invented and others are taken from real life. It serves not only as a way of entertainment but also as a means of training and education. It must be noted that art can also help to solve even some social problems. The essence of art is a thought and an artist’s discussion of real life, people, and problems of the society. Using his/her own works, the artist tries to understand problems, give answers, and solve them. Sometimes, the artist tries to portray difficulties that people do not even see. Therefore, the artist has a big effect on the outlook of their readers. However, it is interesting to see two works that are absolutely different. Authors can see one thing in very different ways. The topic of the discussion is the famous city known as a city of angels.
In order to understand two works discussed hereafter, it is necessary to recall the history of Los Angeles. It began when the Spanish governor sent 22 adults and 22 children to deserted places. However, these sunny lands were fertile. Thus, there appeared a new settlement named after the charming Queen on the shore of the warm ocean. No one knows if the Queen was indeed beautiful, however, the settlement was proud to have her name.
Future California was settled very unevenly and not gradually but, in spite of this, the process was very active. Not only missionaries but also merchants, travelers, and sometimes even adventurers found a place to live there. Also, this place was popular among the pirates, who decided to do away with their criminal past. All of them multiplied the number of dwellers and contributed to the growth of the city.
Ethnic heterogeneity of Los Angeles has caused an extreme diversity of religious beliefs of residents. Traditionally, the most popular religion among Latin Americans is Catholicism. The local Catholic diocese is the largest in the United States. The Jewish community of the metropolis is the second in the country. In addition, adherents of different currents of Protestantism, the Church of Jesus Christ, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, Sikhism, and many other religions exist there too. However, the world is changing and nowadays there is an opportunity to tell about this magic city by means of art.
Anna Deavere Smith in the “Introduction” to “Twilight” and Tod Hackett in “The Day of the Locust” see Los Angeles oppositely. Their views differ, as each of them has their own particular way of viewing the city. Tod Hackett is a man who loves to watch. Exploring the city, he observes people and their behaviors. He always tries to see their souls and paint an overall picture or the stereotypical representation of the city. Of course, each person is an individual, but he wants to find something common in them. Anna Deavere Smith aims at doing the same thing as Tod Hackett, namely to portray the city. However, she uses a variety of voices of the city to complete her task. In order to do this, she recounts a single incident, namely the Rodney King’s beating in 1992. She wants to learn more, because the problem remains completely unsolved. Despite the opportunities of the modern society, it is impossible to record everything on the video. It cannot describe the riots in detail. Thus, Anna’s goal becomes clear; she wants to portray the main problems with the help of art. She tries to make people think about the existing problems.
Anna Deavere Smith in the “Introduction” of the book “Twilight” explains that with this work she intends to find the nature of Los Angeles after King Rodney’s first verdict. She wants to portray the characters in Los Angeles who took part in the riots. She uses people’s voices. The author conducted about one hundred interviews to get as many voices as possible. One may come to a conclusion that her work is a continuous flow of brutality, shouting, and a conflict between not only whites and blacks but also between many other races. This is a ground for thinking about race relations. People have different opinions about and attitudes towards the incident. Despite the brutality and the whole burthen of this work, it depicts something incredible, namely immediate thoughts of many people. There is no solution in this work, but it is full with deep human emotions. This is exactly what Anna Deavere Smith wants to show with this typical incident of a racial conflict.
This book explains the conflict that arose in April 29, 1992 to the reader. Anna Deavere Smith clarifies what it means in the title of this book. The name is a kind of attempt to explore the shadow of losses that the city has suffered. This loss is a conflict that arises because of a misunderstanding. She believes that after reading this book, it will be impossible to perceive the riots in 1992 as a consequence of Rodney King’s beating. Los Angeles is a city where people have totally different nationalities. Also, the relationships between these people are very difficult.
Thus, this work presents the main purpose of this book, particularly voices of these disturbing people. This book is a mirror of the society. According to Anna Deavere Smith, this book is no solution, answer, or any result. However, the direct result or response may be found later. That is why, this work shows us the reality of present days.
By comparing this book with Tod Hackett’s work “The Day of the Locust”, it should be noted that there is a decision in it. The painting depicts the burning of Los Angeles. He believes his work is the result. Consequently, his work can be described in one word in contrast to Anna Deavere Smith’s work. He believes that he draws a new world in which there is no bravery and courage. He portrays Los Angeles after observing humanity. The painting reflects many feelings, for example, desires, dreams, sadness, hatred, and much more. Nevertheless, his work, comparing it with Anna Deavere Smith’s one, is biased and distorted. According to his words, Los Angeles is a copy that has nothing of its own. He shows the landscape of Los Angeles mockingly. The author believes that people come to California to die. What is more, he becomes one of these people. He explains that his role in “The Day of the Locust” is to display the problem.
In spite of such different methods of describing the same city, these two artists have something in common. It is necessary to note the most remarkable similarity between them: they both try to depict a portrait of Los Angeles. The main object of their works is the society. It plays the main role. Using thoughts and behaviors of the residents, they want to achieve their purpose.
Analyzing a particular work of art, people talk about its social value. But the concept is controversial. It is not an inherent property of the object, such as density or temperature. It is something that is more important, for example, the thought of the object. Considering the nature of values in general and the importance of creativity in particular, it is worth saying that the artist has another reality, which he/she wants to tell us. Fully exploring the concept of value, it is necessary to note that this concept is not constant and it is very difficult to find its essence. There are no borders and criterion in it. As a result, these two works and the role of these two artists are very important because they help to expand people’s understanding and the knowledge of something bigger.