Modern art, for all its quirks and provocations, is often hastily brushed off as hypocritical.
I watched a Swedish movie The Square, which was disconcerting to watch. By disconcerting, I don’t mean it in a gross manner but it did so by pricking into the bubbles of shallow opinions and crude aesthetics. While there are umpteen cases to pick on and dissect from this movie, I’ll try to talk about what it did to me with respect to my perception of art.
The Square, primarily, made me revisit the question of what art is to me.
I am not a big fan of pitting art schools against each other and having a stand on which ones I prefer. For instance, in painting, the debates on classical versus modern or abstract versus realistic are either too scholarly for my abilities or I sincerely appreciate all of them. Or, this solidarity in perception could be due to my humble expectations from art. That might also explain as to why I don’t really get “offended” or “upset” when one school is hailed to be better than another; I don’t recognise those distinctions or actively try to transcend them.
A simple, but important, expectation from art is that it should evoke a response in me. I give the artist due respect in my head and do not question the credibility or the worth of their vision. That I have chosen to be an audience to that vision is my choice and the artist has no responsibility and is not obligated to cater to me as an audience with her art. Art, then, is just the interpretations inside me; thus, it crystallizes into a very intimate relation with the artist. And this rapport is nurtured based on monologues and not dialogues. For, the vision of the artist is fixed as the art does not change, per se, but my reading of it can and this can evoke abundant emotions and responses in me that can vary over space and time. In my world then, art is limited but not its impressions.
Seeing art as a means of reinterpreting myself through the artists’ vision is a grand way of consuming it. And good art, to me, evokes as many different versions of interpretations as I can — I don’t necessarily mean positive, it can also take me to uncomfortable places — and thus also helping me grow. The only requisite is that it should evoke a unique response in me. And even when it does not, I take responsibility for this inaction and see it as the art not working on me, rather than the artist’s vision having failed.
A particular scene in The Square reminded me of my impressions of the surreal dinner scene in Luis Buñuel’s The Phantom of Liberty, a concept he had explored more comprehensively in The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, and also my reading of Sigmund Freud’s Civilisation and its Discontents. The dinner scene in The Square, just did not remind me of these but recalibrated those experiences by assimilating it with them. And that’s art well done for me.
PS: As a clarification, the spectrum of what I see as art encompasses everything including but not limited to literature, architecture, painting, cinema and music.