i’ve said before that one of the big myths about art — and not just modern art — is that you’re supposed to “get it,” and that if you don’t “get it,” the best thing to do is to stand there squinting until you do “get it.”

the truth is, you get out of art what you bring to it. not all art in a museum necessarily deserves to be there, and most of what makes older art notable requires some contextual understanding to appreciate, which you will not get just by staring. you “get it” by learning.

modern art comes to the same obscurity simply through a carnivalesque diversity. that’s not to say much of modern art isn’t deliberately obscurantist. it is. but playing the odds, you are probably not the intended audience for any one randomly chosen piece you might run across, which again means you’re not going to “get it” just by staring.

(also, unless it’s an outdoor sculpture or an installation that features bright lighting, squinting won’t help.)

however, there’s something to be said for accessibility in art, or — if a conceptually difficult work — for at least not using inacessibility as a push-up bra.

that’s why i like “the comet” by taeeun ahn. there’s never a single credible interpretation of anything, but what i see is a materialized digital simulacra of a celestial object, something that can only exist to us as secondary data — plots and trajectories and spectrographic maps — and which is even here inexact and incomplete.

this sculpture made me stop — if only for a second — and think about how such things are real anyway despite being mediated by something else, and how the act of discovery, of coming to know something, of filling in the blanks, is subjectively more engaging (so in a sense more “real”) than that which has faded into predictable conformity.

you all, for example.


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