Guest Column: The Strange Power of Art
What is the strange power that art possesses that makes you want to dance or brings tears to your eyes?
What is the strange power that art possesses that makes you want to dance or brings tears to your eyes? It can be explained by the excretion of the reward hormone known as dopamine: It begins already as we anticipate the variations of the music and it releases a jackpot of pleasure at the song’s pinnacle moment. The joy and pleasure induced by art is the same type of neurochemical reaction brought on by delicious foods, sex, intoxicants and acts of daring.
On the other hand, determining the impact of art by neurobiological indicators is just a small part of the millions of meanings that are created through physiological reactions within the playground of the arts. For thousands of years, the purpose of art has been both to generate an individual dose of dopamine as well as a feeling of social inclusion. We still utilise art practices that have been viewed as positive throughout human evolution; campfire circles, initiation rites and a means to appease the higher powers have transformed into happy ruminations in the digital pastures of art and a sharing of experiences with those who are like-minded. LIKE, click!
Every self-important despot has known the power of the arts to move the masses. Plato’s warnings about the potential dangers of certain types of music and its abilities to shake the foundations of government and order were only a prelude to the attempts of power-seekers to control and utilise the arts to underpin their own power. It has also generated clever survivors and sharp artistic counteractions, such as Pussy Riot and Iranian underground rock music. Art as a tool to wield power in a positive way, as a political statement or a means of influencing opinion is still relevant. Just you wait for the Trump sonnets and Brexit cabaret!
You can fall victim to the power of the arts at the Helsinki Festival, for example, by allowing yourself to be drawn into Romeo Castellucci’s visually spectacular theatrical version of the story of Moses or by getting swept up into dance along with the all-star line-up put together by legendary guitarist Ernest Ranglin. The urban summer night also reveals its wild side, as the talented rapper Paperi T and Finland’s best street dancers occypy the symphony concert entitled Kuriton kesäyö (Unbridled Summer Night).
Powerful art is abound within the programme of the Helsinki Festival, so we welcome you to join us! One word of caution, however: you might get hooked.
More info at www.helsinkifestival
Writer is a CEO of Helsinki Festival.