Thursday, November 10, 2011

Art is Not Black and White, and We Don't Have to Agree

I recently put up my feelings about the Lou Reed & Metallica album, Lulu.

My reaction, as I would describe it, is that it's hard to like, unlistenable in places, but worthy of more thought than, I felt, most people were giving it. I think any project this odd, and, I'll say it, brave, deserves a bit more consideration than was being afforded to it.

Immediately, I was getting reactions like "you love Lulu?!?!?"

No, I don't "love" Lulu.

I think I love Junior Dad, and I might love Iced Honey. Both of those tracks are very interesting, and got stuck in my head. So, yeah, I dug those tracks. My endorsement of the album, as a whole, would be as an interesting experiment that, as experiments often do, fails most of the time.

But, you know what? It IS art. It is an expression of an emotional state. The lyrics can be repugnant, but they're repugnant with a point. The co-mingling of the Reed and Metallica sensibilities apparently was exciting to Reed for this material.

It has to be understood that Lars Ulrich must've been the spark of Metallica's involvement. Lars has grown into a guy who's into artistic expression, with his love of modern art. It's easy to see that putting the band, that he has put so much of himself into, into a box with limited freedom is something he wants to fight against. I think the rest of the band agrees. Who wants to be doing the same thing you did at 20, when you're 40? No artist does.

But I digress....

The point is, how the fact that I find some interesting things on Lulu, that I don't HATE it, suddenly translates to "I love it." Trust me, I don't expect to be popping that CD on all the time. Listening to that kind of record is work, and frankly, most people (including myself) usually don't want music to be work. I get that, and it's a completely valid opinion.

But, well, OK...This is what I'm feeling:

I love Jackson Pollock. LOVE his paintings. If I was looking at  "Number 8," just marveling at it (because I would), and some guy came up and said, "y'know, I dig the colors, it's kind of pretty, but my 3 year old could do that," I wouldn't jump down his throat, screaming "why do you hate it!?!!?"

Because he doesn't. He may not appreciate the technique, or the intent, Pollock put into his canvases, but he does like the colors. That's not "getting it," but neither is it hating it.

Even if he did HATE it, walked up, stood next to me, and said "looks like somebody took a dump on the canvas," what's that to me? How does that impact my reaction to it, and why should I care that the beauty I see is completely lost on him? I'm the kind of person who'd be interested in why he feels that way (hence I love reading well-written reviews), but I don't consider that a referendum on if I'm "right," or not. 

Of course, I blame the internet, and our world of easy slander. What the fuck, right? They're rich and famous, and don't have a "real job," so I'm justified in saying they suck. Plus, it makes all of us feel better if there's a "right" and "wrong," and we can position ourselves as firmly, without question, on the right side.

Every, single time I think about this subject, I think about when Superman Returns came out. I saw it, I cried at John Williams' Superman Theme during the opening credits, and when I walked out of the theatre I was happy. I thought it was a well-made film, that captured the tone of the character correctly.

I, by no means, thought it was perfect. I felt like it was shackled by the connections Director Bryan Singer wanted to make to the Richard Donner's first film, as well as Superman II. I felt Brandon Routh was a decent actor, who had a good feel for the character, but was hamstrung by the clear direction to "do it like Christopher Reeve."

When I mentioned these criticisms on a couple of message boards I frequented, you would've thought I'd burned a flag. People were raving mad that I had "trashed" the film. Which I couldn't get, because I was always clear to say I liked the movie quite a bit. It just seemed like, and here's the rub, the second I said something that these folks disagreed with, they stopped reading what I was saying. From that point on, my posts were only there to find grounds to say I was "wrong," making them "right."

Now, hell, I'll still defend Superman Returns, but it's become a rather reviled film. I find some of the people who were so mad at me using the very same arguments I did, and proclaiming that the film "sucked."

Hey, everyone's entitled to change their minds.

Still, I wonder how much more communication we'd have, how many ideas might be really heard and considered, if we'd just start applying "I think." Your opinion is just what you think, period. Mine is just what I think. No more, no less, and none of us has a direct line to the universal worth of any work of art. Art is supposed to inspire discussion, but when that discussion ends up feeling like a competition, what's the point?

With that, your moment of zen...Pollock's "Full Fathom Five," from 1947.

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