Alain de Botton on Art as Therapy

Alain de Botton on Art as Therapy

thank you so much for that that was fantastic and this song apart from being one of my favorites I sing like this everyday I am not joking the reason i picked this song is because it’s called angels the reason i picked this song is because it’s called angels and yet there is no God at the heart of that song and yet there is no God at the heart of that song but there is a lot of feelings that was formerly directed at our God’s art is nowadays our new religion and museums are our cathedrals this is not me stating it that’s something that Theodore Zeldin a cultural historian said art is our new religion and museums are our cathedrals that is a beautiful ideal because religion is on the decline and culture is something that is eminently suited to filling its shoes that is take a look at the historical background to that you know up until the middle of the 19th century this was a pious nation and then around the middle of the 19th century church attendance fell off a cliff and people start to worry what were people going to do when there is no longer a god to hold a society together where were people going to find consolation meaing a sense of morality a sense of dignity and somewhere to go to in moments of distress and with fears and tears and terrors of mortality and a small but influential group of critics in the UK came up with an answer which reverberates and challenges us to this day critics like Matthew Arnold and John Ruskin began to argue that there was something that could fill the gap created by the decline in orgranized faith and that thing was culture with a capital C culture could replace scripture this was the great promise of the 19th century political thought that there could be something that could take up the slack the essays of Plato the novels of Jane Austen the paintings of Titian and Botticelli the poetry of Matthew Arnold these things could fill the gaps left by the departure of religion It’s a beautiful idea one that at the School of Life we take deeply seriously and one that myself take deeply seriously but i can’t help but notice that there are a lot of lip service is paid to this idea in the cultural establishment among the cultural elite in fact the idea is dead and i’ll tell you why it’s dead and how you can prove it’s dead if you were to show up at any of Britain’s elite institutions the University of Oxford the University of Cambridge the National Gallery the taint and you said i’ve come here at the funtain of culture and i’ve come to study because i am lost i don’t know right from wrong i am confused i’m terrified of death the people in charge of those elite institutions will be picking up the phone and dialing if not the insane asylum the police it is simply not acceptable to bring the aches and pains of our souls to the guardlians of culture whatever lip service is paid to the importance of culture it cannot be done now what should you do with these pains and troubles well if you ‘re a relatively stupid person there is one answer that is customarily given and that answer is read a self-help book these things are for stupid people there are some of those people around and they’ll tell you how to live but the elite answer says that anyone who’s clever doesn’t need that sort of stuff and the reason is that life is relatively simple after all all you need to do in an average life is grow up separate yourself from you parents find a job that’s moderately satisfying creat a relationship where you can relate to someone start rasing some children watch the oneset of mortality and your parents generation and then starting to laugh at the shores of your own and then eventually when it gets you lie down in the coffin and shutthe lid politely and go off into the next world or no world at all and that’s simple who’s got any problem with that well i think it’s desperately wrong i think we are very vulnerable fragile creatures in desperate need of support and we generally don’t get it this is why the school of life was founded it’s the founding idea of the school that culture can support us in our life and it’s constant uphill struggle to get that point across what i’m trying to talk to you about today is a new book that i’ve written with a fellow faculty member John Armstrong

100 Replies to “Alain de Botton on Art as Therapy”

  1. was written about and for someone who died at 102 years old. Nothing was said about generating art. There is a business where canvas, brushes and paint is supplied and people can paint simple forms sketched on the canvas or create their own forms on canvas. What does one want to see? What does one want to make? This coloring book frenzy taking over craft and book stores has an explanation and yet what purpose do people color/shade/paint these coloring books? Not everything art is in a museum.

  2. this is really cool, but how is religion on a decline, what is that suppose to mean, just look at china for example in a few years it might have the biggest christian population in the world I guess percentage of Christians is relatively less than a few centuries ago but there has never been more then now and even the same for other religions what do you mean on a decline because there is literally a church in south korea with over 800,000 members so i don't now but I would not say it is in a decline

  3. the things he said about balance remind me of how black rappers often wear the gold chains and talk about women and money and stuff like that

  4. Speaking of the boring everyday humdrum, I observed an ant running around today and realised how beautifully free he is, than most of us…

  5. "Nobody dies for culture." (Terry Eagleton)

    This talk perpetuates many fallacies. For example, the quote from Rothko perpetuates the fallacy of the resonance theory of expression, which de Botton uncritically perpetuates. Theology and psychology are falsely opposed when discussing the 'purpose' of art, as though we have to choose between the two, thus perpetuating the fallacy of the excluded middle. Art is made for many different reasons, most of which are grounded in ritual practices that transcend mere 'psychology. 'Psychology is just one of many entries into art, as is theology. Wittgenstein ridiculed psychological explanations for art. In privileging art as psychology de Botton commits what Gombrich described as the 'fallacy of the single cause'. If someone wants to understand the role of taste in relationship to how we value and engage with art, Gombrich gives a much more nuanced and systematic account than the version offered here.

    I just don't get why Alain de Botton thinks this lecture is worth giving as it is so superficial. If this is the school of life I long for death.

  6. He looks at art as therapy because the notion of art as an enlightener has been lost (and it is much harder to create). Art has also been used to create awe (ornamental art) (which contributes to security – i.e. people in awe of you will leave you alone), though it backfires when done without an adequate philosophical foundation, where it then creates envy/jealousy, which leads to hate, which leads to destruction. From the artist's standpoint, art serves as an outlet for creativity, or as a means of social interaction, or as a tool for communicating insights. So art can be a lot more than just 'therapy', though there is an aspect of art that is opiating, and some artists try to create that (if it sells), and some audiences seek that effect from art (note that art that enlightens often hits the audience over the head, and is thus not going to be popular with said audience compared to the sugary fare).

  7. It's incredible how Alain de Botton has helped me see to art in a completely new way. I find it far more interesting and engaging nowadays. For example, at school we learned about the renaissance and we studied impressionism, but it's Alain's insights into the tender relationship between art and our fragile emotional states that invigorates it all with so much more meaning and relevance.

  8. Listened to this presentation darning my socks, which is an activity I allow myself to consider as a really comforting and truly satisfying form of arts and crafts.
    I am pretty sure I get the same satisfaction as Manet had when he gave his best attention to a bunch of asparagus. Whatever, I will feel good walking with them this coming week.

  9. Description is funny…"acb argues that art can be a form of therapy". Um, doh?! This is nothing new! The creative arts are healing for the artists, the viewers, and there are many professionals who practice a profession called art therapy. No need to reinvent the wheel. He's not disclosing anything new here (?) so hyper. I like to be relaxed when listening to a lecture…this is way too fast of a speech.

  10. Listening to de Botton speak on this subject is such a genuine pleasure. Creativity is the seminal paradox of our civilization. It bridges the child and the adult, our mortality and our immortality, our past, the present and its future. It cannot be measured with tests, yet it is demeaned by the education system as an extracurricular activity. It is harnessed to industry for profit, yet it is dismissed by society as the plaything of folly. It is marginalized to the periphery, yet it is central to who we are as a species. It is denied agency by the elite few ​who​ hold their power jealously, yet it is envied and desired by all because it recalls the purity and joy of what it means to be most fully alive and human. Celebrate and embrace this stigma.

  11. Dear Journal,

    I have fought the encroachment of the display case for way too long. I found a formidable foe in the folly of a charge. I discovered the top speed of a inescapable predator in retreat. The duel is over. I have tasted my blood. My honor has been turned into paint. My brush? My struggle! I am art for all to see in all conditions compromised and fortified. Privacy and comfort are puzzle pieces of a bygone era. You have every right to watch the absurdity of myself as art without fare or invitation. I am not my own. No bucket for donations. You have little power to augment or direct my forms. Much like the Aurora Borialis I am about you without cost or effort.

  12. I think sorting books by year is not that bad. For me it shows, how the thoughts of humanity have evolved. Most writers were genuinely smart guys, who had read a lot and knew the history of literature. Therefore they didn't write already said things, but improved the ideas of writers, and the ideas of society itself. I think having books sorted by date until 19th century is great approach to know understand the history of literature.

  13. A wonderful lecture. It's safe to say I exist because of art. My art heals me daily, gives me peace, a reason to live and a way to eloquently communicate who I am and what I value. Since I can't hold down a normal job due to my genetic disorder, I make mosaics, take nature photos, write poems, play multiple instruments and write/record songs. I've been lucky in that I've had some success in each field. The art absorbs me. I don't know how good I am, objectively speaking, at any of it. All I know is that I have to do it, for it's not so much about the end result as it is the making of it. I become hyper-focused – my thoughts and vision sharpen, the mental and physical pain is lessened. Chronic art for chronic pain.

  14. I think for once I agree with the Guardian. I have to agree with the Guardian once in awhile.

  15. I have been thinking about art as a form of therapy a lot lately. Just not sure what to do or where to start.

  16. The music at the beginning of these is horrifying. It is like an evangelical church with a bad fake pop band. Yikes. Gotta separate from that world.

  17. Could you next time please just show what he is talking about waaaaay longer! He says its beautiful, and you show it 3 seconds. We all allready know what Alain looks like. Thank you

  18. Gertrude Stein: We all fear death and question our place in the universe. The artist's job is not to succumb to despair, but to find an antidote for the emptiness of existence.

  19. This is such a thrilling and exciting and engouraging lecture! Even cried a bit while watching it! For me as for a student of art history, this is such a meaningful and prospective on art. Thank you so much.

  20. Been a professional artist for over 50 years and a composer. I didn't know we were considered the new therapists and the new priests! LOL Thanks for sharing! Very enlightening!

  21. Mr Alain, how can you consider self help books for stupid people while your books are self help books, is that status anxiety speaking? When u consider ur readers stupid means u consider ur self stupid comparied to other writers!

  22. What about growing plants / gardening as therapy that keeps us fit & active, gives food and makes for a nice feeling to see the flowers and vegetables / herbs growing / thriving ! That feeling of abundance we get from gardening carries over in daily life

  23. Please rearrange the national gallery in Copenhagen, this sounds so wonderful. We have Købke here 🙂

  24. The impact of art over our minds, the beauty in the eye of the beholders. The death of ideas is the right notice, because we are in a world who refuses to break up with its standards. A world sees the right from one inherited ideas and never challenge to question their truthfulness. They ruined the world and create a comfortable life that kills our ideas.

  25. He had me until 42:25 – good grief, the Swiss. 700 years of peace and all they come up with is chocolate and clocks.

  26. I see…, just throw God away, who needs God? Look at the shape the world is in. In UK countless and countless lonely people in the aging population. Go to You Tube, see the numerous videos on people like this. Guess humans think they're so smart with so many answers. World becoming more Godless every day. One day, I hope, more people will see that God is foremost in everything, everything. By comparison, everything else is rubbish, including art, when God has no place in a persons life or has the time of day; no matter how erudite we think we are.

  27. A lot of what Alain says meet with (particular) theology.
    E.g. a devine tradition says "every son of Adam (human being) is an envier"
    Alain is brilliant no doubt, and he addresses true needs. Unfortunately a lot of religious people didn't get their God right. And probably clerks need to learn from him and take what doesn't conflict with their belief. E.g. in the holy book, there are both the spiritual and constitutional side. What Alain says may either be a task to be filled by the human being or something that's already in the holy book but not yet exploited. Everybody should cooperate, especially religious people.

    Translation into Arabic (because I'm addressing to them) :
    إنّ آلان شخص لامع بلا شك، و يتصدّى لحاجات حقيقية و أساسية جداً للناس. و للأسف فإنّ المتديّنين لم يعقلوا عن ربهم جيداً ولعل من هؤلاء رجال الدين حتى. و لعل الكثير من رجال الدين بحاجة أن يسمعوا كلام آلان و يتعلّموا منه ما يتوافق مع مبادئهم. في القرآن مثلاً جانب تشريعي و جانب روحي. و كلاهما بوصلة. و ما يتكلّم عنه آلان قد يكون منطقة فراغ تركها الله للإنسان كي يملأها أو أنها موجودة كذلك في القرآن (و للأسف متروكة أو غير معلنة بما يكفي). إنّ آلان يقوم بجهد مهم و ينبغي أن يقوم رجال الدين بجهد بنفس المستوى.

  28. Although I consider art an essential part of our life, as an Christian Orthodox, I don't believe art could ever replace religion. Well, I guess it might also depend on the religion. Art is made by humans and for humans. Art brings temporary relief from our pain, but only God can cure the pain for good. I experimented this myself, otherwise I wouldn't be talking about it. Art is a good tool to heighten your spirit, but having a relationship with God comes in first place.

    I respect and admire Alain de Botton nonetheless.

  29. Christian theology is a synthesis of the philosophies of Plato and Aristotle. The western religious art and music traditions celebrates this synthesis.

  30. If the spirit moves you, please see this post

  31. … any of you who think this life is by accident, you better think really carefully because you will meet God one day and you will have answer for your time and actions.

  32. Surely art has already filled the void left by religion in the forms of literature and, more recently, cinema. Curation by box office performance is perhaps problematic.

  33. I felt pretty much immediately that he was simply talking too fast; I didn’t have the time to consider what he wa saying as sentence after sentence came at me in a blur. Maybe just me but I listen/watch to a lot of the TED talks on YouTube and never feel that.

  34. 11:08 while he was mentioning Syria the audiance was laughing
    And later he says beheaded children and the audiance laughs. Are they drunk?

  35. Thank you so much! This video is incredibly inspiring! This, in some way, sums up the mission of what I do, promote art ( I fonded Private Art Education on the notion that art makes us better in many aspects of life). 
    I have an altruistic proposal, would you like if I translate this video into Russian language, audio or subtitle? I just wish more people learn about this idea of Art as Therapy.

    Would you please advise me whom to contact about it, thank you!

  36. What’s so wonderful about this lecture is that in certain moments I can identify where he’s sourcing information without him mentioning the person. Of course, it goes without saying that he isn’t trying to take credit for the ideas but rather taking the valuable ideas from these philosophers and applying their ideas in an engaging delivery similar to a rabbi at a sermon. So many sources of inspiration all neatly packaged with brilliance.

  37. I am a committed Christian. I don't accept the atheist part, but I love the philosophy. Alain is a treasure.

  38. I agree: too much bad news and negative side of the everywhere. hence we need fine-art. But "fine" art. Modern art is not always "fine"! so we need artists to balance the impacts brought in by our journalists.
    In China our journalists are always reporting good news and hence we not need art for its therapeutic function.

  39. I have to say, I strongly disagree with that thing about mixing all the works of art, the works are an outlet for the ideology and culture of their time, having them arranged accordingly to time helps us understand the different views, philosophies and contrary ideas that were being generated and faced against each other, feeding from each other in a certain specific space of time, so no, we need to arrange the works of art by date, it is necessary for us to grasp a bit of the whole of the times that they were created in.
    Now about it being helpful as a therapy, yes, I agree with that, but used as an outlet for our feelings and ideas, used as a cathartic instrument for ourselves and the whole society, I am convinced art has a healing component into the act of creation and expressing what we’re feeling, thinking, wishing, wondering, aching for, hurting by, it can certainly help us heal and face life with resilience, creativity, and love.

  40. What I am wondering lately is what music preference says about someones psyche… Alains example with the image of the very clean interior was super interesting, that you like something like that because you are lacking it. Would that thought apply to music too I'm wondering. Like someone who likes heavy metal music, is that person actually very soft?

  41. @t has a FREE Art therapy course. I took it. Loved it! @t.
    FREE! Because part of minimalism to me is not to have to pay. To fill
    out forms, get money, get credit, get accepted at the school/university.
    All that is stress!

  42. I think something is missing from his critique of how museums are hung.
    The significance isn't the date, it's the context.
    Art hits hardest in the context it's communicating in. Some art casts a longer shadow than its context, in fact the best art does this, but only because it remains significant for evolving reasons, it becomes a symbol of something totally other than intended. That's great and all, but later iconoclasts often attack older art for this reason, it becomes an idol in violation of its purpose, a symbol of cultures sacred cows, not the more human purpose that motivated it. Hence the mocking LHOOQ print of the Mona Lisa with a mustache. The artist smashed the sacred cow despite loving the original because it became shallow and cosmopolitan.

    Art in context denies this shallow habit of elites. Art in context gives counterpoint to the disregarding and iconoclastic urge of the commoner to smash the out of touch false sacred gods of the cosmopolitan.

    And seeing the contexts evolve chronologically shows the evolving conversation in the context of art, writ large.

    It's still open to interpretation, it's still personal or impersonal depending on you the viewer, but at least the context is available to the apt sensitive viewer.

  43. If Art becomes a god, it becomes an Idol. Let it become a religion, for some it is already, but it will never replace the true God. All things are meant for God's glory, especially Art.

  44. don t explain a painting. You waste it. People want to heal and yet you make it about memory. When you explain it, the body gets distracted from free contemplation. It becomes something merely intellectual.

  45. Can't wait to visit a museum arranged as Alain described. He is so brilliant in explaining complicated things with amazing clarity and fresh perspectives. We are blessed.

  46. Ì don't know, but it's like if you were on a crusade against religion and romanticism… believing in a God or being a dreamer doesn't mean being irrational … being secular or pessimistic doesn't guarantee rationality either!
    Calling for change in our, often, rotten hypocritical societies is a must, however the animosity you keep showing against the very aspect of finding relief in a God or a lover turns you from a neutral secular scholar into a fanatic preacher for pessimism in its worst forms.

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