Sunday, March 20, 2011

Day 14

Today was like the apocalypse.  Well, for LA.  It doesn't rain here for a month but when it does, it RAINS.  Driving on Sepulveda today involved guttering in huge windblown pools, and when I got back I found a twenty foot tree from our neighbor's yard lying in the middle of the street.  It's like some bad disaster movie.

I want to say more about my recent post about art and craft but I'm exhausted right now, so I won't launch into anything too extensive.  One thing, though, to put out by way of prelude, is that I assume, as a matter of course, that it is meaningful to speak of an audience failing a piece of art.  I didn't like Anna Karenina when I read it in college; that says nothing about the book.  I was 19, I didn't read it very well, and, more to the point, I wasn't able to relate to or care about its characters.  I hadn't had enough experience of life, maybe.  My not 'liking' it at that point really meant only that I needed more time with it.  (Which of course leads to the ultimate question: How do you know when you've failed the art and how do you know when the art's failed you?  Which is another subject.  And also, why should you care?  But the answer to that is simple: pleasure.)  And then most art I know reveals itself only upon multiple viewings.  Andrei Tarkovsky's Mirror is without question one of the four or five greatest movies ever made, maybe the apotheosis of what a movie can be.  But, it makes demands.  It requires suspense of skepticism, a willingness to be seduced, intense attention--and probably all that means you have to see two or three times before its pleasure makes itself available.  And then it makes you feel.  In fact, I wonder if this is another useful distinguishing feature in the art/craft dichotomy.  Art ultimately demands a level of emotional engagement which is always in some way unpleasant.  To feel is unpleasant, or at least it runs the risk of being.  Because to feel pleasure requires one also suffer.  Craft does not require we feel.  It requires mental engagement but mental engagement is not so hard.

I'll think more about this later.  I must sleep.


Dezmond said...

So art is objectively (vs. subjective) great? If something is "art," and somehow definitely so, then if an audience member does not appreciate it then they have failed the art? Who determines (or how is it determined) that it is definitely great art? And art must emotionally engage? Something can't be "artistic" on a purely intellectual level? That is merely skilled craft? It is much easier to ask the questions than to provide the answers.

Barbara Carlson said...

I think a great film is artful if you leave the theatre and see the world differently for a few minutes. You leave it, but it (the film) doesn't leave you.

And, it may be up to great art if you WANT to see it again and again.

Cartooniste said...

I've read Valley of the Dolls probably six times, but I would never try to make a case that it is great art. It is great kitsch, and I've referenced it in teaching, and it says something very specific about gender at a moment in the twentieth century. Important? Possibly. Enjoyable? Definitely. Art? Emphatically not.