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HomeFeaturesEditorial: Art in Liverpool, issue #39, April 2024

Editorial: Art in Liverpool, issue #39, April 2024

Art for art’s sake crops up a fair bit in this issue. I’m not sure why. I think we were just in a bit of a zone, but it’s interesting to see how artists put that phrase to work, and how it can mean more than it lets on.

First of all, art’s sake is a pretty wide ballpark. Working for the sake of art isn’t working for the sake of it. But it’s not necessarily working for a purpose either. Art as a form of therapy doesn’t require training*, and art can be a means to an end that isn’t yet known.

Sometimes, starting down a path, guided by art or artists can lead to self-discovery and self-exploration. It can open channels of thought you didn’t know were there, or that you wanted to know, but didn’t know how.

Sorrell Kerrison and Ellisa Sallis & Ella Matthews (ELLSQUARED) at Convenience Gallery present it really well. Their explorations of what can come out of art and play are deeply effecting and joyful.

In complete contrast, there’s a conscious defiance of art for art’s sake in On The Other Side at FACT; an exhibition that places artists at the heart of the personal development journeys, and seeks to actively change lives through creative play.

All of them use play, free-form exploration and some sort of guided experience in their participatory work and installations, but FACT’s artists do it with a set goal. The artists at Convenience do it because it could lead to something. Both work and neither is more or less effective for us as their audience.

Art doesn’t need to strive for social change all the time. It can land much closer to home and stay there. Sometimes, when it does it creates something that can be entirely fun for one group, and a harsh self-reflection for others.

Last month we featured Babak Ganjei’s exhibition at Bluecoat (still open until 14th April). That was exactly that. For a general audience, it was engaging, fun, and maybe taught people outside the art world what it was like on the inside. For artists, it was art for art’s sake, in the sense that we eat for life’s sake. The exhibition existed, for artists, to help them rationalise their process.

And all of that said, it can just be for the sake of it. Whatever that means. But somewhere, someone will care deeply about what you’ve produced. Because the sake of art covers a lot of ground.

The phrase came from a philosophical grounding of aestheticism (suggesting art, writing, music, etc. exist for their beauty alone). It’s a shame that it’s not usually explored more deeply because it’s beautifully flawed. “Art for beauty’s sake” has a very different meaning to “art for art’s sake”.

The listings at the back of this paper have hundreds of events this month. Some cover this ground really well, and others push against it. But if you’re there, it’s worth thinking about the purpose of what’s in front of you.

*I’ll be shouted at by a lot of people if I don’t clarify this. Guided art therapy very much does require training. Art as a form of therapy in itself is accessible to all.