Relationship between Art and Youth Culture Essay
The age of youth has been specially debated by cross-section of society under subjects of sociology, psychology, anthropology, and biology in the modern times. The children growing in US face more conflicts of identity than those in other protected countries. This gives rise to segregation into groups sharing similar traits called culture. Art, music, dance become the mediums of expressions. threats posed from elders or confirmed citizens by these growing youngsters creates a need for a separate identity for themselves, the desire to raise a voice against the prevalent and the effort to bring about a change in society culminates into a youth culture through the mediums of art.
The essay traces the relationship of art and youth culture.
Art and Youth Culture
Relationship between Art and Youth Culture
The age of youth has always been a debated issue for a cross section of society. Modern thinkers have studied the age under various subjects like Anthropology, Biology, Sociology, Psychology and a combination of all these formal sciences to unfold the mysticism and myths attached to this particular age with reference to individual and social behavior of youngsters in their surroundings.
Youths in America have gained special focus as they are children growing up in a diverse society of immigrants from different countries. These children are exposed to a pluralistic society consisting of different colors, castes, races, cultures, religions, backgrounds, traditions, languages and beliefs. Youngsters in the US face a larger threat of identity than their counterparts in nations with deep rooted civilizations or protected nationalities. The need to have roots and recognition gives rise to the segregation of some youngsters sharing common traits to form a culture of their own.
Such a sharing, a platform of similarities helps them unite under that concept or sub culture and hence they gain an identity status in society of peers.
The age of adolescence is associated with turmoil of biological and biochemical changes in the body which provoke confusion and chaos within the youth. This is an age when they are on the threshold of adulthood and tend to lose connection with their childhood selves. This mental quandary reflects in their behavioral change in family and society as a whole. The groups form cultures and these cultures begin to unite and express their feelings through different forms and expressions of visual art or performing art. This is their way of attracting attention to themselves. Of being heard. Of rebelling against their parents, adults and conformist attitudes in society. The need to change the prevalent takes the form of bold communications through writing, painting, music, rave parties, sexual innuendoes, lesbianism, gay promiscuity and other behaviors which are denied to them by responsible adults and the law of the nation. If not heeded this behavior may even turn to negative expressions of heart and mind in the form of crimes and violence.
This goes to prove that art and youth culture have a relationship as close as parents and their offspring. It dates back to the time when humans began to be called civilized men and women. Ruth probes,
“Anthropologist is interested in human behavior not as it is shaped by one tradition but as it has been shaped any tradition what so ever. He is interested in the gamut of culture that is found in various cultures and his objects is to understand the way in which these cultures change and differentiate the different forms through which they express themselves and the customs of any people function in the lives of the individual who compose them.(p.1).
The essence of forming a culture is emphasized in her study.
How is the culture formed? In the science of custom Ruth explains that “from the moment of his birth the customs into which he is born shape his experience and behavior” (p.3). “Every child that is born in this group will share them with others” (p.3).
This is the ultimate philosophy behind forming a culture. Be they youths or adults living in isolated nations.
To investigate the behavior of youths as compared to those in America,
In 1925, Margaret Mead journeyed to the South Pacific territory of American Samoa. She sought to discover whether adolescence was a universally traumatic and stressful time due to biological factors or whether the experience of adolescence depended on one’s cultural upbringing. After spending about nine months observing and interviewing Samoans, as well as administering psychological tests, Mead concluded that adolescence was not a stressful time for girls in Samoa because Samoan cultural patterns were very different from those in the United States. Her findings were published in Coming of Age in Samoa (1928), a vivid, descriptive account of Samoan adolescent life that became tremendously popular the world over.
This reflected in the theory of why youth culture developed in the United States particularly to resolve an identity crisis and the generation gap between them and their parents. War, conflicts and intermingling of too many cultures can pose a problem of self belief and hence new subcultures and forms of expressions are a necessity for the youths to survive this social and emotional battle in their life.
Different periods of time gave rise to different types of youth cultures. Youth culture: teenage phenomenon… The 1920 was an age after world wars and youngsters who had suffered direct or indirect consequences of the wars began to adopt ‘swinging music’ as a rage to their feelings. The music became a popular cult and united the teenagers of the country to share their love for it. The adults refused to accept it but they could not prevent its popularity. Music is thus a powerful medium that connects people.
The 1950 saw Rock n roll, the feminist movement began in the 1960s, which brought about the hippie culture in youths. Sexual revolution arose flower babies. Drugs became a habit of drowning mental unrest and dissatisfaction of relationships. Morality changed. The adults could not prevent this also. Music was universal language and the youths shared it with generosity to form their youth culture.
The innate necessity to construct recognition found expressions in other art forms besides music. Harpers Magazine… In many ways, social psychology begins with the body. According to Enid Schildkrout in Body Art as Visual Language, “if the impulse to create art is one of the defining signs of humanity, the body may well have been the first canvas. … Body art is a visual language”. The cult of Punks with brightly colored hair, piercing and tattoos on the body, revealing body, bold clothes and non conformist outlook began in the 1970.
Today we have the rave parties, orgies, lesbian marriages, gay promiscuity, non committed life styles and also innovative expressions of visual and performing art in youths. Conventional art is outdated and abstracts with electronic media, acrylic and high tech chemicals for colors have become the vogue. Dance, drama and music is no more the refined opera but street shows with social consciousness close to confused youngsters have become popular. Graffiti, Jam sessions, musical nights, art shows and written forms of art have gained momentum in youths.
Art and youth culture thus forms a co existence in society. It has always been so but the revolution in the communication technology, the globalization of the nations,
Travel, tourism, trade and extensive cultural exchange have instigated the need more profusely than ever before.
The relationship between art and youth culture is a manifestation of that innate need of survival and making a significant place of identity in society for the youths. They need to connect to each other to be able to survive the socio psychological struggles in the present society. Youth culture is evolved only out of sharing behavior. This sharing of common traits, in looks, art, music, sex, even crimes, helps the youths to identify themselves with each other. This way they unite to revolt against their parents. They show their unrest within and make an effort to scream silently at all that they want to change and yet do not have the capacity or capability to do so.
Globalization has brought the world closer but hearts and relationships face disconnections. Fast pace of life deprives physical closeness with near and dear ones. Modern technology has distracted everyone from focus of life. The youths are in the middle of all this commotion. They have least resources to fight back. yet they are in the prime of life when emotional support could mean a constructive future but since parental guidance, affection, counsel, care and concern is lacking in their lives they have found ways of expressing themselves through art.
Creativity is a potion for all souls. We are born with talents of expression. Children need good nurturing to be able to express their feelings through arts like music, art, writing or any other. When opportunity is not given youths unite to get all the support from their peers to form youth culture of art and music. These are media of universal communications. They break all barriers and accept all with open arms. The artist vents his feelings through his music, painting or writing while the viewers understand him and share the very same by accepting his art. Be it in fashion, in behavior, beliefs, morals or any other.
Hence it goes to prove that art and youth culture have a relationship as natural as a mother and child. Art is an umbilical chord between youths and their need of survival.
They need it as children and as youths when there is no chord of connection with their parents they breathe in fresh air on their own for the very first time in the form of visual expressions to their innermost feelings which they are unable to convey to their own father and mother.
Popular youth culture relates to anything that appeals to his mind and something that makes others look at him with attention. It could also take the form of careers in vogue, popular studies or even nobility of behavior. But art tends to be the panacea of their age of experimentation, hope, ambitions and fear of the unknown! Their self identity!
Journal of social issues quoted an international student in the US feeling at home away from home only because he listened to the same kind of music that he heard in the company of his friends back home. Music connected him with strangers in a new country. The same goes for a painting. No matter which country the artist comes from he does speak with the language of colors and strokes of brush. Dance relieves stress and rhythm inspires steps to move with grace. Another pleasurable expression without having to speak a word! All those identified as youths group together to the tune of rap, rhythm, reds and blues called art, because they feel at home with each other when they do so. They share a common umbrella under the scorching sun of global warfare, adult pressures, isolations, loneliness, a short past and a long future, turbulent chemistry and an energetic body.
The only binding force for them is creative pursuit.
The only connection they understand is through art and music. The only sustainable energy they can derive is through communication. And the only way they can survive an identity doom is through youth culture. So the relationship between art, youths and youth culture is symbiotic and indispensable for the growth of both. Newer forms are created. Life and society is transformed for a period of time and again new cultures take place.
The youths of today become adults of tomorrow. They live through their age of youth with the help of their culture. They survive their tribulations, threats and fear. They become responsible adults if they find positive outlets during their youth. And the cycle of life continues from generation to generation.
Relationships between art and youth culture remains as strong as ever. It changes in expressions and mediums but the bonding remains the same. The need is increasing day by day. The crisis expands to entangle even adults but little is done to curb or rectify this basic need. That of an acknowledged ‘self’ in society!
Harpers Index remarks that ‘Society depends upon people being responsible for their actions’ who would the youths turn to for guidance if the adults are busy in wrong doings and living an imbalanced life?
Youth culture: teenage phenomenon suggests that “However, despite the massive amounts of change, the basic ideas are not lost in the struggle. Music, a wonderfully pervasive medium, can effectively define each generation as needed. Thus, in the future, music will probably sustain its important value”. “Youth will use it as a tool to define themselves, express themselves and shock their parents and elders”. But this very form of expression will also lead him to a purposeful goal in the future. Art forms and their expressions promise to be the guiding compass for most youths who are
Aware of their state of mind and the state of society they live in.
The relationship of art and their culture will help them sail through their teenage over rough rides of youth only to discover stable islands of a good life with a strong identity, progressive career, healthy mind with happy relationships and a fearless personality with a self esteem of unwavering faith in the self.
The relationship between art and youth culture is both natural and nurtured by our social system. It is this important relationship that constantly steers our youths from the edge of unsocial grievances and it is this very relationship that acts as a bridge between the two generations who can never meet on the same platform of time.
Youth culture speaks through the universal language of art and music. Their relationship is as intricate as that of body and soul and need as vital as oxygen to the lungs.
Art and youth culture are a self supporting system evolved without intention but out of sheer need, and this system is the fulcrum on which balances childhood and adolescence of a growing global citizen of today.
It is easy to accept this relationship through findings of human behavior that Anthropologists have researched through their empirical experiments.
Concluding thoughts on nature side of human behavior Animal behaviors are either instinctive or learned. Much is random and therefore isn’t really “behavior”: a flagellating protozoa isn’t “looking for” food. When social scientists speak of human behavior they mean purposeful and meaningful activities. It is implied that humans are aware of their own activities and those of others. In other words, human behaviors are learned rather than instinctive.
.” For us, therefore, environment remains a potent determinant of behavior” (Mead). Youths who form cultures and use the medium of art to speak out are fully aware of their status in society and wish to convey it to those who are responsible for it. Their behavior shows the connection between art and their culture. Body Art as Visual Language, “studies often show that the single most critical factor in self-esteem is physical appearance” so making an appearance stand out in public become one form of youth culture besides art. They express their art through beautiful looking bodies and makeup. “Social scientists are increasingly appreciating the extent of the interactions that take place between nature and nurture”. Social interaction is considered healthy for mental growth but when the interaction is between youths of myriad diversity, it is difficult for the youth to balance their minds and to learn from their interaction. This creates more complications in their thinking and their adaptation to environment. Each of them fluctuates between what he wishes to connect with but cannot adapt to due to its newness to him. Thus Art gives better solutions to his mind. It is different but it does not demand cultural knowledge from viewers. Any youth can associate with a painting style. He does not require questioning himself on why he likes it
He can adapt and accept it with least mental conflict. He may interpret it in his own way but he still feels connected to it and through it. Same is for music. Music had no boundaries of cognition or of cultures so it is a very comfortable medium to promote unity between vast diversity. Language and lyrics do not hinder the listener if its rhythm soothes his mind. Therefore art has a tremendous impact on the mind set of youths. Once patronized, it becomes a powerful means of promoting messages to youths from them to the audience in the whole world.
Art and Youth Culture are inevitable phenomenon of a constantly changing society. They are the backbone of every civilization and they are the change that every living being is trying to accomplish to reach a permanent goal in life.
They relate to each other just like the two ends of a bridge over troubled waters. Art and youth culture survive the winds of time only because they are so well connected to each other. They are the means of co existence for youths the world over and they are the only source of positive growth of potential for every youngster in this world.
Take away art and culture, and what remains is a Stone Age cave man. We must respect and acknowledge the strong bond between the art and youth culture in order to sustain globalization, disintegration of cultures and degeneration of the human mind.
Concluding Thoughts On The Nature Side Of Human Behavior. Retrieved 10 April 2009
Harper’s Magazine’s Harper’s Index, (May 1993). Retrieved 10 April 2009
Journal of Social Issues. Retrieved 10 April 2009 from
Mead, M.(2001). Coming of Age in Samoa. New York: Harper Collins Publishers Inc.
Retrieved 9 April 2009, from http://www.trinity.edu/makear/socpsy-2html
Ruth,B.(1968). Patterns of Culture. Routledge and Kegan Paul.
Retrieved 10 April 2009, from http://www.amazon.com/Coming-Age-Samoa-
Youth Culture and Teenage Phenomenon Expressed in Music. Retrieved 10 April 2009