01/10

“Cringe”

By Geisha Bar

In this very modern and unpredictable era of contemporary life, it seems awful nice of us that we’re able to look at any kind of artistic object created by our friends, associates, local artists – whoever takes your fancy, really – and say that the work is Very Interesting and I’ll Definitely Have To Think About That For a While, even if on the inside we actually think that the work would be better described as a messy evacuation from the pretension-clogged bowels of a sub-animalistic critter pretending to be an artist. I guess you could describe this social strategy as ‘politeness’, or something – but wouldn’t it be politer and nicer and just generally better for us to actually speak what’s on our minds and let the artist know what’s wrong with his work, rather than implicitly encourage the cycle of badness and then have to sit through even more merde d’artiste?

Cultural transparency would be a nice way to describe the solution to the aforementioned phenomenon of all of us being so gosh-darn polite and tactful all of the time when it comes to artistic stuff. But there’s another factor here: since a lot of us are so ingrained into a quasi-utilitarian state of mind for much of our waking life, we have expectations when it comes to art. If you pay $70 to go and see a well-promoted adaptation of Julius Caesar that actually turns out to be horrendously mediocre, it’s unlikely you’re going to walk out of the theatre and yell about how disappointed you are, let alone try and get your money back. Why? Because you don’t want to seem like an asshole. Which is fair enough, but only helps to further pollute that whole ‘already stagnant’ culture thing.

So the issues here are:
1. It’s really difficult to remain friends with people if you’re also trying to be a half-decent critic at the same time.
2. Thanks to the invisible hand of capitalism or libertarianism or some other kind of pernicious  ism, we have expectations that we want fulfilled when we pay for stuff, and this philosophical approach doesn’t really translate well into industries that shouldn’t even be described as an industries in the first place.

And the solutions seem to be:
1. If you act like an asshole, you’ll be an excellent critic.
2. Art is supposed to challenge your expectations, you capitalist swineherd, etc.

Which aren’t exactly idea…. So what do we do?
(“Move to Melbourne” isn’t an acceptable answer.)