Culture Clash | Experiential expectations | Expectations leading to an approach

Expectations leading to an approach

When it comes to cultural value, film is mostly a known commodity. Films are assessed in a number of ways in order to determine their value; how well they entertain us; how much they made us laugh; how thought-provoking they were; whether they moved us or not - the list goes on. Through years of watching, reading and talking about films, our society has learnt the part that they play within it. This isn’t to say that this part is fixed or limited; but film, as one of a variety of cultural experiences, has firm foundations within society. For now, we know what it is and how to approach and apprehend it.

At this point it is important for us to ask; can the same be said for art? One reason why visitors may leave the gallery feeling dissatisfied is down to the fact that they simply do not know how to approach the experiences that are on offer: they may know neither what to expect, nor what is expected of them.

This situation is comparable to someone with no prior knowledge of cinema being shown into a screening with a group of other uninitiated people. They are pointed to the door and told to go in; they find a large room, a sight that immediately fills some of them with wonder, some with a vague sense of fear. There are rows of what appear to be seats, although they may not be. Suddenly the lights go out and a deafening sound erupts from somewhere. Some of the group panic and immediately leave. The more intrepid among them stay for a while longer and explore the space. A large moving image has materialized on one side of the room. The image stays there for a long time, showing people much like themselves, talking about something or other. The sound remains loud. At some point it all ends. The remaining few leave, all bewildered, a few enraptured.

Whilst the experience may sound attractive to some, it cannot be said that these people experienced the film itself in the optimal way (that is, in a way that was true to the intentions of the director, or the requirements of the film), and it would be unlikely that they managed to get much from it. This isn’t a seamless analogy, but it approaches the experience of many who attend the contemporary art gallery. They often don’t even manage to assess the film (the art), because they are too busy attempting to decipher how to apprehend it – that is, if they haven’t already closed themselves off to the experience due to frustration, confusion or fear.

As an aside, it is worth noting that frustration, confusion, or fear may be the intended outcome of the experience, but this isn’t always the case. It is those instances where these reactions are un-useful that this text is interested in.

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Culture Clash | Approaching contemporary art

1 comment:

  1. People do not see art as being an important commodity in their lives. Cinema, music, sport can be experienced on different levels as 'hi' and 'lo' art and media backs them, in some capacity, as being "a general everyday cultural experience".

    Contemporary art, however, is either dismissed as being 'hi' art and incomprehensible/pretentious, which if, you have even a basic understanding you can see it isn't always. Or its put forward as tourism/entertainment by ruling bodies such as local marketing companies like NGI in Newcastle and dumbed down as a result. Even the Arts Council is doing this with their recent policy of 'Great Art for Everyone' where artists are now expected to make there art totally accessible to everyone which seems to mean, from what I've heard, all artists doing face painting.

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