It is not statistically unlikely to be surrounded by a large number of visual artists nowadays. There are just so many of them and it seems like visual art is the defining characteristic of our era. Therefore I am not surprised how often the question of my feeling towards visual arts comes up, however after answering the question a little less than a dizillion times I got tired and shortened my answer to “it’s the art of the masses”. This not-very-well-thought-through answer caused a few misunderstandings when it was interpreted by many as: “I don’t like it because many others like it”. I take the full blame for that and as I know I will one day –no matter how hard I try- get bored again of repeating the elaborated answer, I decided to write it down, post it here, print out the URL in paper strips that I will be handing out to whoever asks me again: so why don’t you like visual arts?
For me –and this “for me” goes for everything I will be saying from here on since there’s hardly a universal truth when talking about one’s feeling towards art- my evaluation criteria for art is how much it engages me in mental labor, reading it, processing it, interpret it and reinterpret it, the new ideas it brings to my mind and that irritating lovely feeling of restless nagging in my head that keeps repeating “think about it this, is it really what you think?”.
For that reason I love theater. The proximity it gives me to the art while both in display AND in making is mind blowing. That is also why I enjoy good poetry, a Derida book, a Dhafir Youssef song, the chain of thoughts they ignite is endless.
The currently popular phrase of “pics or it didn’t happen” comes from a long tradition of full trust in our eyes, of placing the data we receive visually almost over critical analysis, “we believe it WHEN we see it”, and these phrases are not just words but they express a widely practiced action by human-beings, we rarely doubt what we can see. Therefore when art –the thing that should make us engage in deeper newer thoughts- is presented through the media we analyze the least –the visual- a lot can go wrong. See, to engage in deeper and newer thoughts is not a human’s first “natural” reaction to things, and therefore art is needed to push us there. And when the art is visual it takes a lot of conscious and educated effort to fight the temptation of laying back and enjoying the “view” a painting or a film-scene presents, and instead open a path for deeper thoughts on it. It is not easy to escape pretty colors, or even ugly ones!
Now why is it bad to give in to the temptation of colors anyway? Well, because when a viewer receives the visual piece with no interpretation that means another viewer might do the same and will do the same, and here we have just created a public taste, we have created intellectual masses.
I am not the biggest fan of visual arts because they bring with them the danger of eliminating some of our individuality. And that is what I mean when I say they are the arts of the masses.
As for the large number of visual artists, that is something I adore. I believe the current situation of technology –and cultural aspect that made visual arts the hot new thing- is to a certain degree democratizing the access to art-making and providing people with a chance to put out their own view. And it is much harder to create beauty without a concept than to enjoy visual-beauty without a concept. Therefore I believe that more visual artists means more potential free thinkers embracing their individuality. While more visual art fans means more potential additions to the masses.
And that is why I am not the biggest fan of visual arts.