In Defense of Snobbery

Okay, I've got a sure-fire formula that's guaranteed to make you the most annoying guy (or gal) this weekend: after watching whatever movie you and your friends, your wife or your family wants to see, talk about why you hated it afterward. And don't be general, make sure you go into all of the specific errors that the director made, and how you would have done it better. Be prepared for accusations of ruining the movie by over-analyzing it, and not enjoying it "for what it is", be prepared to be labeled a snob.  You'll be guaranteed to be hated by your loved ones, but you'll also be guaranteed to be a bit better of an artist (that is, if you actually go out and try and create art afterward).

Hating other people's art is an essential part of becoming a better artist. Sure, it's a great idea to analyze art that you love, but honestly, you will learn the lessons much more saliently if you see what's lacking.

Why is this so important?

Well, one way of looking at art is as a discussion. One artist creates a piece of work, and says, "Here, here is my understanding of what life, truth and beauty is all about." And another artist comes along and says, "That's a good start, but you've missed this little bit of life, truth and beauty over here." And so it goes, on and on, for thousands of years.

Greeks look at sculpture, and say, "Hey this could look more like a real thing.'" and start making stuff that looks more real. The next group of Greeks say, "Wow, that looks real, but wouldn't it be more exciting if they we're putting their weight on one leg?" and then the next Greeks come along and say, "Wow, that contrapaso stuff is swell, but how about some more flowing drapery and dynamic poses?" and before you know it, three artistic movements just happened.

That's the thing about movements: they never happen in a vacuum. They're always a response to the one that came before. You can only engage in the conversation if you know the language, and the language of art is critical analysis (aka talking like a snob).

What does analysis mean? It means, yes, picking things apart. Nitpicking, if you will. It means, first paying attention to how you feel, and second coming up with a good explanation for why you feel that way. Look at the details. Figure out how they work together. Break apart those details, and try and understand the finer details inside. Question the assumptions. Challenge the stuff that's phoney.

"Wait," you ask, "won't it ruin the experience for me?" It might, but what is more important to you? Do you want to say something significant with your art? Do you want to illuminate a bit of truth or beauty, or do you want to be transported to the magical realm of Middle Earth?

And to be quite honest, analysis does not ruin art for me. It empowers me. Rather than having an artistic experience dictated to me, I have a say in what the experience will be. Rather than being told that explosions and Megan Fox are awesome, I can say, "Hmmm, I don't think so." And when a piece of art is really well made, I can decide to let myself really enjoy it.

Okay, I want to finish with one more little secret:  you don't always have to open your mouth. If you're always analyzing things, and ruining the party in the process, then you should probably just shut up. The job will get done just as well if you wait to do it with other snobs,  write it down in your hoity-toity theory blog, or scream it into a pillow. As long as you have a chance to figure it all out, and as long as you actually go out and make something in response, being an art snob can only make you a better artist.