I hear there’s a lot of bad art out there. Bad movies. Bad TV shows. Bad books. Bad music. Bad paintings. Bad sculpture.
And worst of all… bad interpretive dance.
How Bad Is It?
Is it true? Is there a lot of bad art out there? When there’s an entire gallery dedicated to Bad Art, I’d say that signs point to yes. But there’s a lot of good art out there too. The problem is, it’s tough to see the good art going on around you at any given time.
Take movies for example. There are more movies available than ever before from more sources than ever before. 16-screen mega-theaters? DVD players in laptops and cars? Cable/Dish-On-Demand/Netflix/Redbox/YouTube/I-Pod/BitTorrent?
And music? Like movies, only more so. Every group of hacks who can stumble across the audio input jack on their computer are releasing their music online.
And books? Don’t get me started at the quantity of “literature” being released. The last conservative estimate I heard was 1,100 books PER DAY being released in the United States alone.
Interpretive dance? Sorry, I can’t help there. I did see a kid at the grocery store having a tantrum that could be classified as interpretive dance, (and I’d say it was better than most) but that’s where my experience with that art form ends.
The massive influx of art is awesome for art junkies, but at the same time it can be easily overwhelming. It doesn’t help that the internet free-for-all lends itself to the McDonald’s method of art production where Quantity trumps Quality.
But you know there is good art out there. Movies that would blow your socks off, Books that you’d want to read again as soon as you finished the last page, songs that prevent you from turning the car off because they’re So Damn Good. But you haven’t heard of them, because they’re lumped in with all the crap. Buried.
Some people would tell you this is a bad thing, but they would be wrong. It is a problem, but it’s a problem that hasn’t changed with the internet, it’s just been amplified. In fact, I’d say its a nice problem to have. And there is a simple solution.
Time is the solution, or rather, the filter of time that hasn’t yet been applied to art coming out today.
It will take time for the cream of the crop to rise, and all of the over-hyped poop to sink to the bottom. It’s difficult to see what will stand the test of time until some time has passed, and the luster of evil marketing, advertising and product placement has worn off, and the public is left with simply the product.
And things are going to get worse before they get better. As the world gets more tightly connected to the internet, and as the internet reaches higher speeds and takes wireless wings, the volume of art available at any given time/place will increase exponentially.
“But Conrad, I don’t wanna wait!”
Hey, who’s running this blog, you or me?
“Sorry Bro, but I just really, really, really want good art now!”
Typical American. Fine. If you really can’t wait, if you really want to know what’s going to stand the test of time before too much time has passed…
“Oh, I do! Please tell me!”
Here’s the secret:
If you want to find good art that’s being made right now, you have to get off your ass and find it.
No charge for this wisdom.
I know, it’s not the answer you were looking for. But if you want it, you’re going to have to work for it. You’ll have to dig. And that means getting your hands dirty.
There’s three ways about it:
Option 1 – Find a filter for good art
Are you really going to agree with all the choices at Pitchfork? Rolling Stone? NME? The New York Times? I doubt it, but for every one of these well-known sites, there’s ten thousand indie blogs trying to be the voice of authority, and if you’re lucky you might find a particular reviewer who you agree with more often than not.
You might also look at user-generated filters like IMDB, Amazon, GoodReads etc, and see what others are saying is good, but these take time to get all the opinions weighed in, and that’s what we’re trying to avoid, right? Because you can’t wait, right?
With this option you still are going to have to do some slogging, but not for long. Find a filter you can trust; one that’s right for you. Finding it may take some work.
This option is a shortcut, and it comes with two disadvantages. First, some things that are good might slip past their radar. Second, there’s no guarantee your likes will align perfectly, and you might end up with some referrals that you think are awful. When your favorite radio station plays a song you don’t like, then you’ll know what I’m talking about. The key here is to find a source that gives you a better ratio of successes to failures than you would get through random chance.
Option 2 – Be the art filter
This option takes more work than the first. It means you’re going to have to become your own art critic. It means you’ll have to do some critical analysis (ie: thinking) for yourself. It also means you’ll have to read ten horror novels to find a good one, and thirty to find a great one.
The good news is that if you focus on doing this, you can’t help but get good at it. You’ll be able to explain WHAT you liked/disliked and WHY – the two things every art critic must do. Then, you can add your three cents into the collective pool of the internet, and maybe someone will seek out Your opinion on what’s good or bad.
In the end, this is the only real option. Because we all have different tastes, we’re all going to have a different list of what makes for Good art.
Option 3 -Opt Out
You can always give up on arts entirely. I know people who don’t read books anymore. I know people who don’t play video games anymore. I personally don’t watch television anymore. Opting out can be an act of cowardice, or it can be as simple as saying “I have no interest in that, and I’m focusing my energies elsewhere.”
But life without any art would be boring. So in some respects even bad art is better than no art at all. Hopefully when you give up on Country Music (a wise decision), you’ll be able to spend more time listening to Northern Rock.
“But Bro, I only want to read awesome books by awesome authors!”
No, you’re a greedy, lazy and mindless automaton who wants to be told what to read. Marketers, Politicians and Organized Religions love people like you. I don’t. Bro.
It also means you’re stuck with the classics; art that has withstood the test of time, and the majority have agreed is ‘good’. There’s no guarantee you’ll really like it, but then again, if you’re that kind of person, you’ll like it if you’re told to. Furthermore, you think this blog post is spectacular, and you want to give me all your money.
Bad art has a purpose.
One thing to consider is that if there wasn’t any bad art, there wouldn’t be any good art. We need a reference. If you waved a magic wand and dispelled all the bad art from the world… well, for one thing this blog wouldn’t be here, but also there wouldn’t be anything to hold the good art up against to show its “goodness.”
Another thing to consider is that all the masters got good at their craft by practicing. By trial and error. By releasing art and getting feedback on what people thought was good and/or bad about it. In other words, by releasing bad art. It’s part of the process, and even if you aren’t an artist yourself, you can become part of the process by providing that feedback.