I'm unoriginal as fuck and I can't come up with a half-decent node title so I'm shoving this rant here.
Bah, If I Can't Have the Grapes, Then Screw Them
30 March - 2 April 2010
I've been told on some occasions that I'm smart. I'm guessing it has something to do with my facial hair.
After all, an astounding number of old-timey composers, artists, authors, and other creative people are known for lovingly cultivating their imposing facial shrubbery (if not at all for what they, er, did). Truly, beards are a sure mark of cerebral prowess.
Now, the problem lies in my repeated attempts to wrap my
beard head around these men's work—and many, many, many, many other people's. Try as I might, I simply will not...understand. Some illustrations are in order, it seems, before I can go on further with this vague talk about understanding.
Art in any form is said to evoke emotion in the listener. Many have spoken volumes about its power to express joy, sadness, anger, beauty, ugliness, this, that, he, she, me, wumbo. People burst into tears hearing Chopin, close a book sighing at its sheer "beauty", take one look at a CD booklet and deduce the meanings of the lyrics it contains faster than they can listen to one song, and will gladly shell out thousands—if not millions—for splotches of paint on a canvas to which the artist arbitrarily attaches stories and meanings that somehow aren't lost on the buyer...
I simply do not comprehend how or from where people manage to pull this stuff. Show me a lyric, and more often than not I'll say: "Okay. What the hell does it mean?" Show it to anybody else and they'll say: "Oh, that's easy. It's an allegory about pain and suffering. The repeated references to the colour red symbolise the blood the lyricist is 'spilling', so to speak...."
How the fuck do people pull all these meanings out of thin air? Is it merely a language I haven't been taught? An ability to which left-brained robots like me are barred access? In any case, when it comes to interpretation and appreciation and understand-tion, I face roughly the same situation as a five-year-old with an IQ of 50 in a college calculus course.
I also refuse to believe in the notion that interpretation is an entirely subjective art and that therefore it's entirely up to the viewer to decide for themselves what an artistic work means to them. When somebody is creating a work, there is something specific running through their mind, and thus there are right or wrong answers as to what that work means. If this wasn't the case, I could easily publish an analysis of The Divine Comedy declaring that it is an allegory about the dangers of fuelling your pick-up truck with goat urine.
On occasion, my attitude towards art and my inability to access it becomes sour grapes. Take, for example, what I'm positive will remain my least-favourite book of all time: Toni Morrison's Beloved, which I always call Bedeviled out of sheer spite. It is two hundred pages of indecipherable nonsense. And yet, my former AP English teacher and many of her students praise it for its beauty and well-writtenness. How is that fucking drivel beautiful? Ask anybody, and instantly they launch into a grand spiel about slavery and themes and symbols and allusions and illusions and ellusions and ollusions and ullusions. Clearly they see something in it I don't.
The same goes for visual art. I judge images on how cool they look to me. Others judge them on texture, colour, and...I need not go on. I'll simply recount my prior experience with the subject.
During my Drawing 1 class, I was required in essence to crank out still life after still life. First, of a fake bird thingy. Then, of a flower pot. Then, of a guitar. Then, of a chessboard (with this one, I reserved a fair degree of artistic licence). Never mind that, except in the last case, I had zero interest in any of my subjects and therefore couldn't be fucked to put even my usual amount of effort into them; my problem lied mostly in that I was producing all this "art" without any clue as to what I was supposed to be doing to make it "good art". The most-used phrase by the teacher was "draw what you see"—and to a great extent I did. But then I'd be getting dents in my grade for those infernal design elements—composition, texture, you know the whole deal.
Music is no different. I see people look for songwriting finesse, musical symbols, or atmosphere in every bloody measure of every song. Even within metal, I see listeners on the lookout for good riffs. (What the hell separates a good riff from a bad or derivative riff?) Damn, people, why not just enjoy the music for what it is? One guy told me once that he didn't like On the Virg because he found their music mechanical and sterile. Now, it's no skin off my nose if OTV aren't his thing, but what the hell makes them sterile?
I will never understand. Nor will I ever know what's so great about The Great Gatsby, nor will I ever be able to wrap my head around visual art of any sort, nor will I ever decipher a great majority of the lyrics to my music collection unaided, nor will I take a liking to any painting in any gallery in any nation. I simply will never understand.
It was at some point during this year that I suddenly came upon several important realisations.
To me, many of the people who are always trying to derive meaning from or attach arbitrary meaning to creative work are almost no different than the Swedish parents who once tried to name their kid Brfxxccxxmnpcccclllmmnprxvclmnckssqlbb11116; they create meaningless gibberish and expect it to be understood by others. At the same time, though, they are no worse than those who complicated everything by introducing all this bullshit by which all creative work is now judged. It is because of the latter group of people that we now judge music by dynamics, technique, emotional appeal, and interpretation; visual art by composition, texture, (bold) use of colour, and lights and darks; and books by imagery, lyricism, use of themes and symbols, and poetic tools. And for all of the above we have hidden meanings, multi-layeredness (whatever the hell that means), and just general pointless expressions of beauty and whatnot.
It's all completely stupid. So now instead of considering myself inferior because my peers can derive meaning from a work I cannot understand, I express my annoyance with the work and return to my comfort zone of modern fiction novels, death metal, regular English classes, "unusual" photography, and Spengbab Squorpants.
I'm not deficient because artistic beauty = ERR_DOES_NOT_COMPUTE. I just can't be fucked to bother with that nonsense.