Can I dislike the Artwork of Others?
image copyright of Otomo, Katsuhiro
We have all been at a gallery show, a museum, heard a song, and thought to ourselves, “Gee, that’s pretty terrible”, and been sincere about it. This problem is usually further complicated if we happen to know the creator(s) and inflamed even more so if we like or respect that person(s). Another catalyst is if we ourselves happen to be an artist or a creative person. Have you ever felt a fear of political backlash if you don’t chime in with a nod and a “that’s great” smile? I know I have, and I think I’m slowly coming to grips with my own personal relationship with art I dislike. So how do we deal with this? If our reaction to the art is negative, how should we express our feelings about it, or should we at all?
A truism of this argument and conversation, although most certainly not always recognized is that the answer lies within us as individuals, only. I cannot give you this answer, but I would like to point out a few personal opinions I have about encountering works of art that aren’t my cup of tea and how I try to use them to my benefit. There are both pros and cons of disliking art but there are a few techniques that I feel have helped me channel my emotional reaction to art I dislike for my own benefit as well as the benefit of others.
Before reading further let us agree for the duration of this discussion that anything can be presented as “art” and it is up to you individually and subjectively to decide for yourself if it’s art you enjoy, art you dislike, or art you feel indifferent towards. Therefore there is no such thing as bad art, good art, or art that does’t count as art when presented as such.
If you dislike art, then to a certain degree it has succeeded in producing a reaction for you and therefore has qualified as true “art” regardless of how poor the execution or pretentious the subject. Eureka! By interacting with this “drivel raised to the status of art” presented before you, you have connected with an inner touchstone of your own specific taste. How could one appreciate the art that they enjoy, create, and share without this paradigm we refer to as taste. This is the first step in healthy art criticism, and it can be wonderful to endure this provocation. One must deal with their own personal reaction to art first before concerning themselves with how that opinion can relate and influence other artists and art admirers. Use this experience to conduct an examination and do some introspective reconnaissance as to “WHY” you dislike it. You may find your reasons for disliking are based on craft, politics, jealousy, confusion or any number of things, but take joy in that by examining these feelings as you are gaining a better definition of your own artistic taste. What you find may surprise and upset you, but don’t let it wound you.
Coming to terms with our own feelings is crucial before moving on to the next step, how to relate the feelings we have to art we dislike to others, or even the creators of that art. This is obviously much more daunting and will be discussed in a future post. For now, go forth and seek to interact with art you like and art you dislike. If your experiences drive your emotions too far towards jealousy or anger, you may want to focus on less inflammatory subjects at your own discretion. You don’t have to completely ignore what you hate, although I recommend easing into it and embracing it rather than allowing it to embrace you. Try focusing on those emotions and why the art caused them. Go ahead and be a critic, it’s not like you weren’t already, but stay positive and professional. It’s ok to dislike some art.