i like it – but is it any good?
Before I launch into my ramblings, I’ll illustrate the source of the idea:
BUT WE MUST BE CAREFUL not to judge the value of a work either way, good or bad, by two things: ONE, How much or how little it costs and TWO Whether we like it or not, i.e. our taste.
REMEMBER W. H. AUDEN’S FIVE VERDICTS, which express the difference between taste and judgment.
1. I see that this is good and I like it.
2. I see that this is good but I don’t like it.
3. I see that this is good and I don’t like it but I understand that with perseverance I could come to like it.
4. I can see that this is trash and I don’t like it.
5. I can see that this is trash, but I like it.
The main points that I’m trying to understand are:
1. What is meant by “liking” something?
2. What is meant by something being “good”?
I am, by my own admission, seriously na√Øve when it comes to this whole art thing. I haven’t read up on all the greats, I haven’t studied the history of the different art movements and their inspiration/influences. What I know has mostly come from reading random books, articles, blogs, discussions with friends and just simply making it up as I go along. This makes me feel sometimes as if I may be missing out on a great amount of enjoyment that might be derived from reading more into the work of those great masters, than I can percieve with my untrained eye. But there’s also a rebellious streak – in fact it’s more than a streak – that says “Why should you have to be trained to appreciate something? Isn’t that awfully contrived? Where’s the natural, instinctual enjoyment?”
I see this as being the main source of my problem with a line like “I see that this is good and I don’t like it but I understand that with perseverance I could come to like it”. That makes me think of the times when someone tells you a joke that you don’t get because of the references in it being unknown to you, then they explain it and you laugh half-heartedly. I think it’s different from the situation where you have to look at something for a longer time to appreciate it, rather than being able to glance for 5 seconds and immediately ‘get it’, and all it has to give is given up in that 5 seconds.
But back to those definitions:
Does liking something necessarily mean finding it visually appealing? Could you say that you like a photograph of a wartime atrocity, without having people think you are seriously mentally disturbed? How does that differ from ‘appreciating’ an image – or is that what it really means in this context?
Then, what constitutes a ‘good’ photograph, if not being something that is visually appealing, appreciated, or liked? (I’m sure I’ve ranted about this before…) Can you put aside opinion in terms of judging the merits of art? I think it’s all completely subjective. I really can’t justify a ‘final ruling’ on the quality of an image, beyond what a certain person or group of people happen to think of it. The only thing I see is the opinion of a certain person or group of people being taken as more important than others, and treated as fact. So in saying that you think something is good, but you don’t like it, does that mean that maybe you accept that general definition of it being good as decided by this important person/group? Can you decide something is good in terms of considering the time, skill, technology or tenacity of its creation, and still not appreciate it?
I struggle with this one, I really do…