Does art require a specific vocabulary? Yes and no. To me, Rachit, precise, descriptive language may help me appreciate pieces of art, but it rarely, if ever, makes me love something I would otherwise be indifferent to.
Western society seems to value art ‘critics’ who can poignantly analyze a piece of literature, music or film. People like Roget Ebert or the critics of Pitchfork, are often artists in and of themselves in the way they can summarize and pick apart dense, layered films and music. Using the right words to describe art, is an art in-and-of-itself. Meta aside: Is using the right words to describe the words used to describe art, an art? If so, we’re goddamn Picassos.
Back to critics: the word critic is pejorative and rightly or wrongly, often adds a bit a haughty perception of these types of endeavours (think of the scene from Birdman where Michael Keaton rips into the New York Times critic). I think this type of categorization is unwarranted – deep down inside we want honest, no-holds-bar opinions from other people. Was American Idol ever the same without the tactless, blunt Simon Cowell?
Great art is in the eye (or ear) of the beholder, but broad brush strokes are often good enough to help people appreciate or stay away from certain pieces. Art ‘language’ helps us communicate and swim through the incredibly vast ocean of music, film and aesthetic pieces. I think the respect and admiration of the art ‘critic’ has waned, primarily because of the wealth of various opinions that is now easily available to the general public. For movies, instead of following the recommendations of one writer, many people now use aggregate websites like Metacritic, and Rotten Tomatoes. To me, these services work well for filtering out movies that almost nobody likes – yet are often not very useful for finding things you would like.
That is where the subjectivity of art is obvious. No matter the medium, the joy we derive from experiencing something artistic is contextual. It depends on our life, our personality and our tastes. When I hear recommendations, the words themselves matter very little. It’s the person who’s saying them that is important to me. Can I empathize with them? Do they like the same things I do?
Take Seinfeld for example. What words would you use to recommend it to me? It’s about people in New York. It’s a show about, in its description of itself, ’nothing’. You could tell me its funny, but funny is contextual – just like ’touching’, ‘beautiful’ and ‘moving’. Communicating broad ideas is certainly important – but when it comes to art, the only convincing way of recommending something is to say ‘just trust me, have I ever recommended something you didn’t like?’
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