Saturday, May 17, 2014

Art: It's Consumption and Creation

What is art for those who view it?  It is primarily an intuitive and emotional experience.  This experience spurs our intellectual curiosity for how it came to be.  Beauty comes from rules and logic, but also transcends them.  Modern art often flips the model of classical art, putting more emotion in the creation and more intellect in the consumption.  My movie viewing approach often tends to be experiential.  Despite the value of innocent viewing experiences, media literacy is also desirable.

Art is first and foremost experiential and existential, not intellectual.  It is intuitive and emotional.  We are moved by beauty.  Intellectual deconstruction is, at most, secondary.  If you are deconstructing a movie as you watch it, the movie is either much too obvious, postmodern (obvious on purpose), really terrible, or you are a nerd.

Why do we desire intellectual deconstruction?  As I said, we are first moved by beauty.  The first astronomers were first moved by the beauty of the sky above them and then desired to know about it in an intellectual fashion.  Philosophers searched for the existence of God because of a yearning in their hearts.  Reason is what brings someone from desire for truth to truth.  Reason is not the desire.  It is a tool for quenching the desire.  The desire is intuitive and precedes reason.  People deconstruct movies because of this pre-intellectual desire.  Reason alone has no purpose or direction.

Art is more than the sum of its parts.  Beauty springs from rules and form, but also transcends these things.  Rules and form as abstract concepts are not beautiful.  It is the intuitive experience of their actualizations where we find beauty.  Music is built around patterns, but number sequences are not inherently beautiful.  If a musician friend and I listen to a beautiful symphony, we can both enjoy a beautiful symphony, but he would better understand why it is so pleasing.  This is why I cite so many movies on this blog.  It's almost to verify the concepts in practice.  The average layman actually needs very little knowledge, if any, to enjoy a work of art.  It isn't directly ignorance that keeps the average person from enjoying certain forms of great art.  It's a close-mindedness to experience.  For example, you can only get so far explaining to someone the aesthetic merits of black and white cinematography.  They just have to acquire a taste for it through giving it a chance multiple times.  While aesthetic enjoyment is not an act of the intelligence, I would guess that there is some, albeit non-inherent, link between open-mindedness to experience and intelligence.  On the other hand, knowledge is extremely important for creation.  The creation of art means a largely intellectual and technical creative process to create a primarily emotional and intuitive consumption process.

Modern art, in many cases, turns this model on its head.  Art is made in an emotional stream of consciousness and the viewing of it inspires immediate deconstruction because on the immediate level, it is unintelligible.  The intellect is more involved in the viewing than in the creation.

How do I watch movies?  Generally, I sit back and try to let it wash over me.  I often try to calm my distracted mind.  Appreciation of silence brings a better appreciation of life's noises.  Sometimes, I will pray Catholic devotions at the movie theater while the stupid trivia and elevator music are running.  A lot of my viewing habits are influenced by my childhood, and later my viewing of existential, mostly European, movies which almost require a different type of viewer than mainstream American movies.  Both viewing experiences inform each other for me.  At the end of a movie, I either liked it or didn't on an intuitive level which is varying degrees of subconsciously informed by different principles.  Writing this blog isn't to tell myself what to like, but to unearth why I like what I like and to defend it.

After all this praise for "innocent" viewing, is there really any place for media literacy, especially among those who do not intend to be content creators?  Yes!  This stuff is just plain cool, no matter what other hobbies or career pursuits you have.  I know that's just one man's opinion, but I will also add that I personally despise the sort of lazy utilitarianism that despises knowledge and knowing more than we have to, as if we could predict what we'll "need to know," or that practicality is the only measure of worth.  Another thing to note is that anyone can be a content creator nowadays.  Cheaper prosumer equipment and easy internet uploads let virtually anyone in on the action.  Don't you want your daughter's birthday to be a watchable video with some charm?  I would also note that those who understand movies don't just sit there like academic robots, picking everything apart, while ignoring the emotional whole.  One can shut off that side of their brain and in fact, we now have two levels to enjoy a movie on.  Knowledge allows us to better talk about movies, too, which is something that most people do.  The last reason, and perhaps the most important, for media literacy, is that media, especially audiovisual media, can be dangerously seductive.  We can't even begin to realize all the ways that movies subtly warp our brains and change our world views.  Better understanding the apparatus is a way of lessening its power.  Ignorance is not always bliss.

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