Art? Boring. Artist? Weird.

A child and a mother look at a piece of abstract architecture.

“Mommy whats that?”

“Art,” she says.

End of conversation, beginning of ignorance. It’s not art. Or at least for the kid there is a better way to describe strange things. A small child doesn’t have the faculties to create abstract categories, and would fail to connect the real reasons that give rise to creativity by simply building a category (art) for them. In this instance, the child might infer that all goofy, pointless man-made things are art. Boring things are art. TV is better than art.

Disappointing, because this turns the general public off from art. This gives rise to an adult society that is utterly out of touch with art. Adults find community in the assertion, “That’s not for me, that’s art. It doesn’t make sense.”

Instead, try this dialog with a kid:

“Someone made that.” Let the kid ask, “why?”

“Because they really really wanted to.”

“Why?”

“Well isn’t that interesting? I wonder why too, should we try to figure it out? [Read plaque] It looks like this man was born in a country at war, and he spent ten months building this to remember his friends and family that didn’t survive.”

“That’s a long time…”

We should never stop wondering what compels other people to do things. Trying to get to know others’ experiences is probably the only way we can resolve differences.

Other questions you shouldn’t short-change:

  • Why’s that man kneeling with his eyes closed?
  • Why did that boy blow the bomb up?

It ought to be irrevocably interesting to us when someone does and sees something differently than we would, given that we all have the same capacity for reality. Whether generally good or bad, symbols of behavior, like art or dramatic acts of violence, can be insightful. Let’s not short change our, or at least not our children’s perspective of the world.

In this way, I find television shows- reality, documentary, sitcom, drama- very interesting. There is an overwhelming audience, sometimes including myself, that finds them gripping, and it is important to ask with childlike wonder, when weird stuff is going on in the world, “why?”

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