It all started when I played Hot Cheetos and Takis for my co-workers during our morning coffee break. After Mr. Jones’s intro, one of them said something like “if I met a kid who talked to me like that, I’d smack them,” and I got mad. Let me get this straight. Kids from the poorest part of Minneapolis record a fun, smart, wholesome song about snacks in an after-school program, and you threaten them with violence? Could you be any less cool?
Then another coworker defended her, saying, “I get what she’s saying. Some art’s not for everybody. I went to the Walker once and I saw this big red canvas, and I was like, what’s the point? Why would anyone spend any money on that?” and I fuh-lipped.
“ROTHKO?!” I whisper-yelled. “You’re gonna diss ROTHKO now?!” If you stand up close to his 8’ x 4’ portrait of smoldering rage tinged with doom and tell me you don’t feel anything, then I’ll tell you with certainty that you’re a robot. It’s not that I know what it means and you don’t — I can’t interpret it for you. But if you scratched just the tiniest bit — at yourself, at the art, at the artist — and don’t feel anything, or think of anything interesting, then you’re dead. You’re hosed. You’re broken.
I figure what he’s doing is treating art as entertainment, which is a confusion of categories. There’s a difference between experiencing art and being entertained. One entertains a child. To be entertained is to be sedate and content, and maybe to drool a little bit. If you forget the plot of a TV show 4 minutes after it’s over (but wouldn’t mind putting on another episode), then you’ve been properly entertained.
I won’t be the douche who says what the difference between art and entertainment is. But the appropriate attitude for each is radically different. To be entertained, you sit back and relax. It’s passive. But a good art experience requires the viewer to do their homework, to make connections between the art and their personal life and the world, and to ask questions. Art stirs you up, instead of putting you to sleep. You have to work to figure it out, to make sense of it. Yeah, art’s weird. That’s the fucking point. When you enter a museum filled with broken pieces of ancient empires, stolen glimpses of enlightenment, and bizarre monuments to the future, and leave saying, “damn, I wish I’d just stayed home and watched an episode of HIMYM,” then it’s no one’s fault but your own.
That’s a good explanation. I often try to convey that same point to people about art and fail to be so clear.
I posted something very relevant a few months ago: http://chongwonisright.tumblr.com/post/23907914776/a-maybe-he-has-a-brochure-or-something-in-here