Art is not something that we should feel comfortable with. It is not something we should always love and agree with. It is something that we should question.
Many people who go to museums, plays or concerts go in order to make themselves feel elevated, not to elevate, appreciate, or interact with the art. They stare at that painting and lean in closer out of obligation, not appreciation. They clap because that is what is expected, and because silence in uncomfortable. But silence can be a sign of appreciation as well. That you have been bereft of all words. If something seems strange about a performance, if it makes them uncomfortable, they either ignore it or criticize it simply because they were uncomfortable. They don’t delve in deeper as to why it made them feel that way or if perhaps that was the purpose. They don’t acknowledge that they feel uncomfortable simply sitting in the audience and not knowing how to react or what it may mean.
Gwendolyn Brooks hits on the strange, possibly misplaced reverence we have toward art in the poem “The Chicago Picasso.” It poses the question “does man love Art?” and answers with “Man visits Art, but squirms. Art hurts.” In today’s theatre audiences, most people either react with feigned appreciation because they couldn’t fully commit to watching, or misplaced hatred, because it was either too nonlinear or too formulaic. Brooks says “we must cook ourselves and style ourselves for Art, who is a requiring courtesan.”
While in London, I saw an amazing production of Chekov’s Uncle Vanya set in rural Britain. I noticed that some of the audience, during intermission, discussed the play itself, because they ‘had always loved this play’. Instead of interacting with the production, they seemed to be putting on their learned ‘Art’ hats and behaving as they thought they should be, reacting with feigned reverence. The people sitting next to me, on the other hand, disliked it because it was more casual than they preferred, it wasn’t the ‘elevated Chekov’ they expected, and since it wasn’t what they expected, they hated it and left. One remarked that one of the characters didn’t say a speech with enough passion, and demonstrated how they thought it should be spoken, making it sound stilted, forced, and full of ‘fake’ passion.
It is funny how people give stock responses when asked for their reactions on Art, either making it more or less than it is without even talking about the meaning. (Izzie Karp/CoS Student)