Why do we the art viewing public see so much shit being passed off as art? It’s because we the art viewing public allow others whom I shall refer to as the art elite to determine what is and is not art for us.
Each person has their own sense of what is aesthetically pleasing to them. Certainly an individuals sense of aesthetics is influenced by environment and society in countless ways, still it remains an individual attribute. A unique attribute.
You personally are responsible for determining what you consider to be or not to be art. When we the art viewing public go into galleries around the United States we see mostly shit. You know it. I know it. But we never say it to the people who need to hear it. I recently offended the director of a photography gallery by telling her straight up that my photography would never make it into her gallery because “my stuff doesn’t suck enough and most of what you hang is shit”. Needless to say this didn’t go over well.
Honesty My Ass
A digression from art in specific. One of the big lies in our society is that we value honesty. Not true. People value honesty on the condition the honesty does not offend them. My assertion that most of the images hung in this gallery qualify as shit was meet with hostility and rejection. My aesthetic values from the point of view of the director are wrong. This implies aesthetics are entirely objective with no subjective element. It also implies that this director has access to and knowledge of said objective criteria while I do not, or perhaps that she can correctly interpret and apply this objective criteria while I can not. Her reaction of anger directed at me personally in response to my comment directed at the art and my perceived aesthetic value of said art shows disregard for my personal and honest opinion. It also shows emotional immaturity. If I got upset and rejected everyone who had a subjective difference of opinion with me I would never have contact with anyone.
This segues right back to why what is displayed as art is mostly shit. Reason number one – The people who get to decide what is and isn’t art and what is good art and what is bad art are mostly isolated from anyone who disagrees with their opinions. Oddly enough these people are typically liberals who can’t shut up about “diversity” but don’t have any contact with people who disagree with them. The commercial art world – and thus most highly publicized and commonly accessed art world – is controlled by a relatively small group of people who all think alike. To disagree with the art elite is not encouraged.
The art elite is not interested in why you don’t agree with their definition of art as they don’t believe your definition of art has value. You see they are educated. You are not. Only the educated have a sense of what is aesthetically pleasing. You don’t have a valid opinion about art because you didn’t take the same college courses they took.
But there’s more. This director when attacking me for having an opinion different that hers insinuated that my photography is not any good because I’m not making money from it. I find this an interesting comment. As previously mentioned the art elite mostly fall into the liberal category and there are few thing liberals hate more than other people making money. Liberals like it when they make money of course. Capitalism is only wrong when other people engage in it. Furthermore liberals and the art elite are amongst the first to declare that a price can not be put on art.
Only The Artist Knows Art
If the thesis is that only people who make money from art (be it art in general or the specific art in question) are capable of judging what is and what is not art then I suggest that few gallery owners or directors are qualified to judge art themselves. The director in question – to the extent of my knowledge – does not make money creating photography. She gets paid to oversee the display of other people’s photography. Most often she doesn’t even select the photography that is displayed. Other people select the photography which is displayed. One of those people is not even a photographer but an English major and an editor and does not make any money by creating photography.
And wait, there’s more. Must one merely get paid to create art or must one make a profit creating art? Why do those who don’t make money creating art give up their privilege of having an opinion about art? If you make art but haven’t made money from it then does that mean it isn’t art until you get paid and upon getting paid it somehow magically transforms into art? Does the piece of art you got paid for turn into art but not the rest of your art? By what process did being able to get money for your art become the sole method of gauging the value not of your art but of your opinion of art? These and many related question are left unanswered.
That’s a snapshot (but it’s not art) of the people who are deciding what is art. The next part of the problem is this. Why are you the individual members of the public allowing other people to decide for you what is art? I think it’s part laziness and part fear.
Sheeple & Fear
Humans are sheep. Humans like to have decision made for them. Most people go through life waiting and wanting to be told what to do. Having someone else tell you what is and isn’t art is one more bit of thinking you don’t have to do for yourself.
Another aspect is fear. Fear of rejection and attack if you should dare to disagree with a member of the art elite about what constitutes good art. Your fear is well justified. To challenge what is idolize as art by the elite is to invite personal attack. The art elite are not able to discourse on difference in aesthetics in a ration manner and you know this either instinctively or from experience. Yet their opinion about art is not somehow more valid of more correct than yours.
The art world is much like high school. If you aren’t part of the clique then you are an outsider to them. You don’t need to participate in the game. You can take control of your opinions and reclaim your sense of the aesthetics. Not only to reclaim but to assert. It’s simple. The next time you are in a gallery or being exposed (subjected) to art or “art” don’t simply express your opinions about the creations you like – express your opinions about the creations you don’t like. This needs to be done. Gallery owners, gallery directors and many artists themselves are totally isolated from any opinion of their displayed or created art which isn’t favourable.
Openly and articulately expressing why a creating is not art in your view is also helpful for you. When you look at a creating and think “that is shit” you have an opinion but do you really understand why you have that opinion? By articulating to yourself or a companion why you think it’s shit this forces you to examine your opinion and become more aware of exactly how you arrived at that opinion. This is part of the process of self-understanding. In fact as you rip on a piece of art you will find you are gaining more knowledge of yourself and the art. You might even find that as you analyse your response to the art your response changes. It’s happened to me. I’ve started out hating a work only to later decide it’s actually quite good. I didn’t understand it at first but by articulating why I didn’t like it I was able to understand it better.
The art elite would have you skip this step and simply agree with them. Don’t do it. Agreeing with other people doesn’t help you in any way on the path to becoming a better person. Note that I’m assuming you want to be come a better person. I know some of you don’t and therefore you shouldn’t be wasting your time reading this.
When people show you photos of their children you smile and say “Oh how cute.” But it’s not cute. You are faking it. You are saying what you have been conditioned to say. You are saying what the parent wants to hear. You are saying what will not hurt anyone’s feelings. This just encourages the proud parent to keep showing the photo of the child to other people and annoying them as well. But they, like you, lie and say “Oh how cute.” We behave exactly the same when confronted with art or “art”. We the public don’t want to hurt the feelings of the artist and the elite so we lie at the worst, suppress out opinions at the best, and pretend we are doing the right thing. We aren’t.
The artist and the art elite need to hear the dissenting opinions. That’s the only way they will grow. Granted many of them are too immature to deal with dissent and perhaps you fear hurting their feelings. Don’t. Other people’s feelings are not your concern. I’m not saying you have to be mean or you should go out of your way to be an asshole. I am saying you should be honest in a respectful way. And yes, this is a case of do as I say not as I do. I suggest you don’t use me for your role model here. If the artist or art elite you are talking with is mature enough to engage you in conversation then explain why you have the opinion you have about a work of art. Not as an apology but as the basis for your opinion. Your opinion isn’t wrong. It can’t be wrong. It’s yours. It’s an opinion. Anyone who tells you that your opinion on what is or is not aesthetically pleasing to you is wrong and is a total idiot. You should treat them as such.
Other side of the coin – their opinions aren’t wrong either. Here’s the difference between you and the art elite. You aren’t trying to impose your opinions of art on society as a whole. You don’t decide what hangs in a gallery. You don’t publicly claim to support art, artists and creativity while in fact providing support only to a small group of people who hold opinions and aesthetics which are exclusively in alignment with yours. This is the very antithesis of creativity and “diversity” (barf).
Don’t be fooled by the noses in the air, the certificates on their walls and the fact that their entire wardrobe is black, dark black and light black. Your opinion counts as much as theirs does. Maybe even more as you are potentially the one who is going to be buying the art. If you think it’s shit then it’s shit. Flush the toilet and walk away.
When & where was the last time you saw some shit being passed off as art? I mean other than on my website. Some things are a given.