Here’s an expectation for you: this post is going to be dope! Wait no, never-mind, that’s too high of a bar – I’ll never live up to it. This post will be totally shitty – don’t expect much. Meh, too low – I’m selling myself short (I’m much taller than that). Where should I set the bar? Your point is that the bar shouldn’t be set anywhere – it should be totally unknown. If art is experienced with absolutely no preconceptions does that really give us the best ‘unfiltered’ experience? Perhaps, but the experience will always be tainted by all of the other subtexts in your own life. You can never run away from context – someone’s recommendation is just another piece of context within a myriad of other factors that may or may not help you enjoy a piece of art. Recommendations are, however, useful for helping us guide us through the torrent of possible movies, music and other subjective experiences. There just isn’t enough time in the world and it’s probably worthwhile to not waste it on things we’ll certainly dislike.
But is a specific bar useful? No, it probably isn’t. What we need is to move on from our classical conception of ‘defined levels’ of art appreciation and criticism, towards more of a quantum mechanical perspective: we need to embrace the Heisenberg uncertainty principle in our art recommendations. Heisenberg’s principle says that there is a fundamental limit to how precisely we can know certain physical properties. Like with these types of constants, our language for art should resemble a probability density: it should help us understand how that person feels about the art in general, while still leaving the possibility for other (potentially less likely) interpretations. Art ‘critics’ should instead be art ‘contextualizers’: they should provide us with interesting and useful background information, while also giving an idea of who may enjoy it. Totally one-sided opinionated pieces may be entertaining to read, but they should be marked as that: entertainment.
The probability slanted language can apply to emotional states, humour appreciation, and perceived quality of the art itself. The scale is less important, but the notion of (the lack of) precision is essential. Sure, this would make certain decisions more complicated, but it will be worthwhile in the long run. In the words of Bertrand Russell, ‘one has, in practical life, to act on probabilities…I would encourage people to act with vigour without complete certainty.’
This is of course, my recommendation. Certainty level: 50%.