I humbly submit an antidote for pretension – yours, mine or someone else’s – in the following definitions of “art”:

art (n.) –  an attempt by an artist, typically through extraordinary means, to make people care about the same weird shit they do

Any of you out there who make a thing they call art has probably noticed themselves caring a lot. I don’t mean this as a compliment; the things you (we) care about tend to be, um, weird.  They don’t have the qualities that usually provoke caring.

To clarify, angry artists reading this, I am not talking about themes.  I know that your art tackles the big, even universal.  I am not calling you a weirdo for exploring femininity, or class, or mortality.  I am willing to (begrudgingly) give humans the benefit of the doubt and say most of us care about these things.

I am talking about the much smaller-scope.  The subject and not the message, if you follow me.

That person has hairs on their neck where hairs often grow on people’s neck.  I care about it, for some reason.

– Probably not me, ever

Maybe you are a photographer who cares about leaves in muddy puddles.  Maybe you are a sculptor who cares about what the other four fingers do when someone’s index is pointing.  Maybe you’re an electronic musician who cares about the different pitches and tonal nuances you achievable with a quarter-pound of ham.

I am being told by my imaginary editor, Shahnaz, that the verb I might mean is “obsess,” and not “care.”  And that may have merit.  (Shahnaz is also upset about my split infinitive earlier, and I do not care.)

Even weirder, then, that we would “obsess” about something that doesn’t even fit the traditional criteria for “care.”  Know what’s more weird?  Weirder?  Possessing of higher WL (weirdness levels)?  Trying to convince other people to care about it.  Or obsess about it, if we are exceptionally talented.

And yet we do.  We go to great lengths to.  But we do it.

Because even if they don’t in their day-to-day lives, you can bet if they really like your muddy leaf exhibit, they will – at least for a moment – care then.

art (n.) – a form of communication characterized by leaving almost nobody on the same page, almost any of the time

This point is best illustrated in the form of a table.

The audience gleans a specific meaning from the piece. The audience believes the piece is open to interpretation. The audience believes the piece is meaningless.
Matches the artist’s message. Does not match the artist’s message.
The piece has a specific intended message. Woo! Whoops Whoops Whoops
The piece is meant to be open to interpretation. Whoops Woo! Whoops

Ha-HA! Now I am talking about themes!

Now, of course I don’t think this chart captures the whole of art criticism.  Nor am I of the opinion that the abundance of Whoopses here are bad.  I think that art is a place where people being all over the map adds to the fun.  Maybe the place.  (I said these descriptions would be inelegant, not negative.)

You are smart people.  (Even if you are artists.)  You understand what I’m trying to say.

I’m sure I’ll come up with more whack ways of looking at things.  And I’ll share them with you.  And hopefully trick you into being interested.

-J

 

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