Culture Critique: Appreciating Art Matters

When discussing art in any capacity, people have an awful trend to get dismissive about genres, artists, arts or styles they don’t like. For a long period of time as a music listener I would regularly rag on genres like nu-metal, Christian rock or country, seeing them devoid of talent or artistic merit. As of writing this, however, an album I’ve been spinning on repeat this month is nu-metal, one of my favorite albums of all time is a Christian rock album and some of my favorite artists (such as Nick Cave and Modest Mouse) have been influenced by country music. This isn’t just applicable to music, however. Art, film, literature, theatre; you name it, someone hates an aspect of it or the entire damn thing. What gives? Why do we do this?

Something that causes this is word of mouth and whatever is trending (or isn’t) at the time. How many times have we been told that a particular piece of art is bad without even interacting with it? We might not have seen a second of that said film or show, not even listening to a minute of that song or album, but because people have said it was bad and have joked about it, it therefore must be bad. I believe it’s important for people to take the time and experience a particular piece of art or genre before they cast any harsh judgment.  

Another factor that causes this is initial exposure. First impressions are the best, so if something fails to ‘wow’ us when we’re first exposed to it, then we’re turned off. If someone was trying to break into theatre, and I was to expose them to some of the weirdest, experimental or avant-garde plays out there, they would probably feel turned off about the genre as a whole. Deep dives are fine, but one should always get themselves well acquainted with any genre before they, again, make judgment.

Perceived effort is also a major factor in casting judgment about art. A lot of people have the impression that the artists must suffer for their art, as if it’s a natural law. If you don’t suffer for the art, then it isn’t valid. This is especially common in the world of modern art, where people often dismiss minimalist art as being effortless or pretentious. 

However, I don’t believe effort should be the end all and be all of judging art, or at least physical effort. If an artist makes a bold, simple choice that makes a messy or unwieldy piece of art interesting, then why shouldn’t they be praised or recognized? Minimal art is the embodiment of that mentality; all extraneous matter is cut for a confrontational, striking piece of art. Physically exhausting or time-consuming, maybe not, but it certainly takes a lot of mental effort to make a choice like that. The point to be made here is that the message should be what is focused on, not what perceived effort was put into a piece.

I’m not asking for people to suddenly fall in love with genres they dislike, or consume every piece of media under a genre to get a better grasp of it or painstakingly detail (or ignore) the artistic process behind whatever art they’re consuming. All I ask is that people give any and all art a fair chance before brushing it aside.