Thursday, December 30, 2010

Don't Make That

These days, it seems fashionable to be 'anti-art'.

It seems that no matter what art it is or where it is placed, somehow, someone will be against it. But what does that mean, to be 'anti-art'? Is this a new phenomenon, or is it something ancient, built-in, so to speak, to society itself?

I tend toward the latter explanation because while it is sometimes fashionable to be iconoclastic, it has always been safe to be anti-art. The most common example of this is trite.

"That's not art. My five-year old could have done better than that!"

While uttered often in our era, I suspect that down through time, there has always been some observer off to the side muttering that very sentiment, even stretching back to the Neanderthals. Critics, even cavemen, have ever been so cruel. Another, less articulated but still prevalent attitude is more direct.

"I don't care what you call it. Stop. Don't make that."

This is most often directed to artists at the extreme edge, whose position there is to elicit that very response, but it is what is really at the core of most objections to art. If being anti-art is somehow seen as being pro-order (or anti-anarchy to double down on the negative) then it is a rather common feeling, I suspect.

Many people feel--and, perhaps, have always felt--that art and artists have simply run away with (from?) the rules of society. There is a prevalent feeling that for most people, most art is no better than graffiti, and certainly is no less harmful to society. Art, like graffiti, is a sign of decay. Art is anarchy that threatens the order of society and some people think that they are defending not simply their opinion, but their very way of life.

Sometimes it's tempting to think this way. It'd be much easier to reject art than think about it. But common sense and some reasonable humility are in order. When we see ourselves as the last bastion of civilization, it's a sure sign we are overreaching.

1 comment:

Sabrina said...

Art is very threatening to people hiding from themselves.