onsdag 6 februari 2013

The Artful Narrowness of Taste

Recently I've been thinking about my old brain-spectre, Quality, again. Briefly put, I've been wondering - for a very long time - how the quality of art can be measured. They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder, yet you can teach objective principles of painting, music, writing, et cetera - so obviously there is some objective mechanic at work. This is a conundrum.

Here is, I think, another piece of the puzzle: Narrowness. Let's illustrate with an example.

What is going on here? Simply put - the first picture is very well-made, requiring a great amount of skill - but it's not very narrow. It's an old woman and a dog. People have seen a great many pictures of old women and a great many pictures of dogs. Furthermore, humans have a strong sense of tribalism - and there's nothing tribal whatsoever about the first picture. It's (almost) universally human.

The second picture, on the other hand, pertains to a subculture. Not only does that make it a little more original, but it also speaks to a particular tribe. The picture says "I, the artist, have something in common with you, the viewer" - assuming the viewer, then, is a fan of rainow-fox-dog-things. Which we can presume a lot of those 145 people are.

Two forces are at work here. Firstly, the second picture is competing against a much smaller pool. There are fewer pictures pertaining to its subculture than there are pictures pertaining to old women. Second, and I think more importantly, the second picture sends a tribal message - it establishes a sense of connection via shared interests. Jokes are a good way to study this second phenomenon.

If I make a simple pun, it's instantly understandable to everyone who speaks English. It's extremely inclusive and, therefore, not very funny. On the other hand, if I crack a joke about that one time you and I did something, and compare it to a TV show we both love - why, I've established a strong sense of connection, and in the moment you're likely to find that hilarious. This is because it establishes a personal connection between you and I.

So! The comment "Deviantart Logic" seems to imply that someone has taken offence at this state of things. The explanation is simple: There's another subculture at work. This subculture might revolve around knowledge of advanced anatomy, drawing techniques, et cetera - an artists' subculture - or it might be based on a classical schooling, in which Michaelangelo and Leonardo are what Michaelangelo and Leonardo are to TMNT fans.

Both of these viewpoints are valid. In the former case, the person is saying "I appreciate the work that went into this picture, and feel a connection with the artist because of it". In the latter, the person is saying "I appreciate the resemblance to classical works of art, and I feel a connection with the artist because of it - as I imagine we both care deeply for the classical ideals". Whether or not this is true is, of course, irrelevant. I could (and have) write fanfiction for fandoms I do not care about in the least, and have people appreciate that work because of a perceived sense of belonging.

So - this is another little piece of the puzzle. I think it makes sense.

Inga kommentarer: