Sunday, January 27, 2008

Art and Fun


Last night over coffee, beer and election returns the conversation drifted to the subject of the internet and how such a thing has ruined the primacy of Real Art Making. Echoing a title of a recent book about blogging, my friend slurred his opinion that the "rise of Amateur Culture" turned matters of aesthetics and discerning taste into items to have fun with; "Everyone is having a grand old time" he said," everyone has a page and everyone is putting their two cents , their pictures, their poems, all the shit they've gathered and are putting it up on the net. It is not fair, this is serious work, I mean..." By that point MSNBC had projected Barak Obama the winner of the South Carolina primary, and I was left to stew for a night for an answer.

"Art" is massive set of aesthetic activities that accommodates a lot of agendas in its generalized practice, the practice of "having fun" not the least of them. "Fun" is that sense of something that engages and provokes in someway a facet of one's personality that makes up the personalized and skewed way that one understands how the world works in actual fact. Whether Cage piano recitals, James Carter solos, Fassbinder film festivals, or whatever gamier, tackier sounds cleave to ones' pleasured ganglia, the quality of fun, that fleeting, momentary state that defines an activity, is why we're attracted to some kinds of music , and not others. It's a legitimate definition for an aesthetic response, but the problem comes in the description of the response, the articulate delineation of what made a set of sounds "fun".

The point, of course, being that everything that is entertaining or distracting from the morbid sameness of daily life cannot be said to be exclusively in the domain of the willfully dumb, conceived in a massive expression of bad faith: what is entertaining, from whatever niche in the culture you're inspecting, is that activity that holds you attention and engages you the degree that you respond to it fully. "Fun", in fewer words.