Sunday, May 27, 2012


David Burliuk(1951); oil & collage on canvas, 6" x 8"; w/ Burliuk frame
Art is subjective, that much seems pretty clear. But... apparently it isn't. You always get a lot of "yes...but." So recently I changed my mind. I don't say art is subjective anymore. Recently I've taken to saying that art is only subjective.

I have to say that this meets with even greater resistance. Yes, greater force produces greater resistance. I'm a dad of teenagers, so I understand. I was a teacher for more years than I care to remember, so I get it. But what I've learned is that resistance has to be met with greater force if there is going to be any movement, any breakthrough. That art is only subjective is obvious. That there are boatloads of people who think otherwise, who think that they somehow know better, is just plain arrogance. Neurosis. We all get to think we know better, right? We all get to believe that we have the wherewithal to judge art objectively. Which is just another way of making my point. Individually we get to decide what is art, what is great art, what is bad, etc. Subjectivity. Nothing but. Definition of...etc.

Which is great. Art is only subjective. The power to club other people with objective judgment is within everyone's grasp, but it is stupid. Like teenagers giving whatever the thumbs up or the thumbs down. The fact that grown people, so called experts, etc, want to behave this way is nothing more than ego, adolescent ego. Which isn't really fair of course, since adolescents aren't nearly so bad. We just know that they are exercising their egos in new ways, and opinions as fact are new found power in a world that gives them no power at all.


So there you have it. Art is only subjective. It is a gift. Enjoy it. Don't hate me for saying this. Sure we wish it was different. We wish that art could be properly measured. But we're wrong. The beauty of art is that it is subjective. Try it. Go with it. Subjectivity is a beautiful thing. We are alone. We experience things alone, even in the movie theater. Our heads are our own. Our minds are our own. Yes, we share. Sharing is also a beautiful thing. We can even agree. Many of us can even agree. Many of us who are devoted, experienced, enlightened can even agree. But that is all we are doing. That is not objectivity. That is just people agreeing. Let it go. We all still agree as individuals. Subjectivity is not as powerless as it seems.  If artists can play God making something of nothing, well then the rest of us can play God sitting in judgment. Sure. We can do that all we like. Thumbs up, thumbs down. Just one word of caution however; if you are busy judging, then you are missing out. We judge from a safe distance. Art is a dish better eaten with your hands than judged from behind glass. Dive in! Chow down! Or savor each morsel. It is whatever you make it, so make it. In the end we might do the thumbs up and thumbs down, but this would still be just our subjective opinion, no matter how well considered. Art is only subjective.

Addison Parks

Spring Hill

1 comment:

Mark Warren said...

I could mount an argument but I will just leave it fluttering in the wind because no one will believe that art has an objective truth and that most "art" that appears in any epoch is relative drivel and that objective truth exists.