“Thoughts before coffee” Part 23: The Artist – Audience relationship

Art should spark conversations and controversy. It is part of its job. It is supposed to make you think, to make you search your feelings, to argue with others on its meaning. The audience is important, a vital player in the “game” that is Art, because an artist without the will to be presented to, and criticized by an audience, is just a hobbyist.

There are of course those who would argue that, in order to be capable of criticism, an audience has to be adequately educated. This is true, but it has been used as a card blanche by A LOT of artists, in order to defend themselves from criticism. “They cannot understand my art, because they are not properly educated. It’s only natural that a select few would be able to grasp the concept…” blah blah blah. That kind of attitude is partly responsible for what we call “Modernism” (there are so many other paragons at play, but that’s a story for another time). We can sum this up with the well-known phrase “Art for the sake of Art”.

It is understandable, if you think about it. I can sympathize with the notion that in order to understand things, one should be properly “equipped”. You cannot simply walk into Mordor, right? Oversimplification is not always an option, because many good points (the artist’s points) might be lost. Art is difficult to make, therefore it is just as difficult to understand, except if you are a bookworm, in which case you can probably see right through the artist’s intentions.

What about those who can’t? What about the people who have “better things to do” than sit and read a book, or watch a documentary? Are those considered “poorly educated” entitled to an opinion? Well, thing is they should be. It’s just that they can’t. Hear me now, before throwing that stone: Art is more than just entertainment. It is, after all, a means to convey a message to the world. When criticizing Art, we cannot simply say “X was good” or “X was terrible” based on our likings alone. We are missing a point. You might not like a theatric performance, but the message could resonate within you, if you could understand what they were talking about. If you were properly “equipped”, you would probably give the play a second chance.

Thing is, the blame is on the other side as well. I’m talking of course about those self-absorbed idiots, those who don’t bother with the “uneducated”, and will not yield themselves to their questions. Those who get offended when their art is ridiculed, but will never try to explain themselves, make their work understood. If you are not understood, you have to keep explaining. Yes, you put a lot of effort in whatever you are doing, and I respect that. But, as long as your attitude towards those who cannot understand you is “meh”, then YOU ARE JUST A HOBBYIST. Education is also one of Art’s jobs. EDUCATE THEN! Reach out to the people! When presenting your work in a familiar environment (read: “educated people only”), two things happen: One, you get comfy and never change. Two, you ignore the true purpose of Art, which is to be known. It is time for artists to get out there, and make the audiences hear them. It is time for creators to get close to the people, make them interested! Get your message through to them!


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