Monday, January 18, 2010
The art poliice, part I
Many people – most people, really - stand in front of art and just don’t know what they’re looking at. And they feel stupid or scared to ask. I can relate: I feel dumb (especially) about music, and am shy to ask questions about music listening. It’s not a good feeling. And, although I’ve got a good handle on visual art, I often find myself under pressure to instantly know what I’m seeing, what stance I take, what I think, what I feel.
The phenomenon is really the effect of art political correctness, a form of policing that goes like this: don’t ever say the wrong thing or ask the wrong question, for you might offend, or worse, make a fool of yourself. The safest thing to do is just pull out the generic, approved comment.
There are two immediate antidotes: One, ask clumsy questions. Do it. Two, if you’re a person in the know – and we’ll talk about people who think they’re in the know but aren’t another time- share the love. If someone goes blank, tell them what you like about the goddamn thing. Sure, there’s great artwork that just instantly communicates with no need for further explanation. But most of the time, a bit of an in goes a long, long way. So give it (and yes, they’ll probably remain blank after).
That said, I’m anti-audioguide. That’s just too much of an in. Shut up already and let me look.