Friday, August 3, 2012

Craft and Entertainment

I once wrote that, "all Art is a picture of remixed Nature." My main idea being that art is a creative - and intentionally distorted - reflection of reality. You will never find something in art that is not first found somewhere in nature, it's just that art can play with the proportions and remove undesired elements at will.

And as I say ad nauseum (mostly regarding ethics rather than aesthetics, though), values belong to the subjective individual, there is no factual objective good and bad.

But it occurs to me that there is another distinction we can make of Art that may be a bit more interesting. I call these two distinct forms of Art, Craft and Entertainment. They are not necessarily mutually exclusive, but insofar as a work of art is Craft, it is probably not Entertainment to most people, and insofar as it is Entertainment to most people, it is probably not Craft.


Craft is Art that proceeds from the peculiarities of the Artist's heart/mind/perspective/value rather than the commonalities. Craft is not intuitively appealing, Craft does not have wide appeal, Craft is esoteric, obscure, and mysterious. The reason for this being that it is created according to a vantage point that you probably do not use yourself.

Any given person is likely to have a lot in common with a lot of other people, some things he will have in common with all other people, but there will be some things so peculiar that only a handful of others will share them, and to some degree everyone is a unique snowflake. It is possible to create Art that remixes the world in a way that pleases the peculiar or unique parts of an Artist's nature. The resulting Art is a challenge to the audience.

The challenge is this: is there enough beauty in the Art, as it appears to you now, to compel you to understand it?

We philosophical types tend to have our heads shoved too firmly up our own asses to admit that we sometimes come across things that we do not understand, but that we feel is above us rather than incoherent or beneath us. But it happens. And if you don't have that characteristic arrogance, you have probably encountered movies or books or songs that seemed like they promised you something new and something great if you could just find a way to get behind them. If you could understand them. If you could figure them out.

That is the effect of some Craft. Of course, it is also possible for Craft to just be dismal. The Human Centipede probably sprang from some esoteric parts of Tom Six's character, that doesn't mean that it's worth trying to get behind or a point of view worth trying to acquire. But, then, that's how The Human Centipede impresses itself upon my character via my perspective; a different character and a different perspective might feel differently.

The essence of Craft is how particular it is to the Artist that created it.


Entertainment aims to please. It wants to provide a service to the audience, and for that reason does not try to lead the audience anywhere that it might not want to go. Where Craft beckons the audience to go chasing, Entertainment offers the audience a seat and sets up the stage nearby. As a consequence of this goal, an Artist creating Entertainment tries to limit the influence of his peculiarities, the Artist wants to focus on common ground between himself and the audience, or if necessary will even try to appeal to sensibilities that he does not share (like an director who makes movies for babies).

There is nothing inherently wrong with Entertainment, but there are those snobs who want to turn their nose up at anything that exists for people where they are instead of people who have reached a certain kind of special vantage point or expertize (of course, that's basically what a snob is, isn't it? Someone who supposedly sees things that you do not, and looks down at you for the sake of elevating his advantage).

For the consumer with an eye toward the evolution of his character, there are two things to keep in mind regarding Entertainment. Entertainment will not move you forward, you will not evolve or grow from Entertainment. However,  Entertainment is also an exercise in being what you are. If you have an aggressive nature, consuming aggressive Art will let you indulge in being who you already are; a sexual character watching pornography is being who he is. And if you do not exercise your present state of being, well, then how are you really yourself?

I imagine that this distinction will be revisited often in the future.

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