How to Enjoy Art as a Human Being
Start consuming art. Consume everything you can. It doesn’t matter if it’s good or bad, that’s all subjective anyway. Visit museums. Look at every painting, every artifact. Don’t go anywhere without new music on your iPhone or in your car. Get a Netflix subscription. Buy the Criterion Collection. Go to the ballet and cry.
Start to have opinions. Tell everyone you’re preferring J. Cole’s new work and that Yeezus left you wanting. Discover that there is actually “lesser work” of the Beatles, and that you like it more than the White Album. Don’t be ashamed of liking Salvador Dali, even though lots of people seem to think that’s pedestrian. Get chills at Matisse’s use of color. Realize that you like The Godfather more in theory than in practice. Realize that you like Wes Anderson more in practice than in theory.
Go on a Wikipedia binge. Read books about old celebrities. Never stop staring at photos of Theda Bara. Be somehow shocked to discover James Murphy is from New Jersey. Stare in awe at Pablo Picasso’s full name. Start giving weird tidbits about artists’ lives at parties. “Did you know Joey Ramone’s birth name was Jeffrey Hyman?”
Refine your tastes as you learn more about these artists. Start accepting that most painters you enjoy either abused women or fucked kids, or maybe did way more drugs than you’re comfortable with. Remind yourself that there is nothing you can do about that now, and just relegate this information to something that scratches at the base of your spine every time you see a Caravaggio. Don’t let it take away from your enjoyment, but secretly wrestle with it later.
Resolve to vote with your dollar with regards to anything contemporary. Chris Brown was already out, but toss Mystikal (sexual battery), Dr. Dre (Dee Barnes), DMX (everything), and Rick Ross (weird date rape lyrics). If you’re going with lyrics as a qualification, realize this cuts out lots of hip hop. Try to introduce some back in, but wince a lot. Make a silent exception for “Ignition (Remix).”
Get really annoyed at all the celebrities defending Roman Polanski. Wonder if Phil Spector’s behavior expands to the stuff he produced for the Beatles. Start listening to the Beatles again and get really weirded out at some of John Lennon’s lyrics. Think to yourself, “Fuck, John Lennon too?” Give Michael Jackson a bit of a pass because he was just a kid, you know?
Start seeing every artist as a Chris Brown. Have a hard time listening to Blood and Chocolate because Elvis Costello once called Ray Charles the N-word. Never watch another Mel Gibson movie. Wonder if Liza Minnelli were a man, if you would stop watching Arrested Development because she beat up David Guest. Figure you would, and realize how problematic this is. Continue your lifelong practice of cutting out anything that endorses cocaine.
Think of everything in black and white. Stop reading comics by any illustrators who think women are “fake nerds.” Don’t watch Mark Wahlberg movies (called a man “Vietnam fucking shit” before beating him and leaving him blind). Cut out Sean Connery (said it was OK to beat woman if they were being “hysterical”). Be glad you have something to back up your hatred of Bill Maher (“it’s easier to make women nod than to live in the doghouse”). Continue boycotting Charlie Sheen. No more Josh Brolin, Sean Bean, or Sean Penn. No more Woody Allen. No more laughing at Mike Tyson cameos. No more James Brown. Nothing made by Seth MacFarlane.
Don’t stop now! Start to doubt what’s left over. Figure you shouldn’t consume art made by anyone born before 1960. No, 1975. 1980? Maybe women are alright, except for Dusty Springfield or Tammy Wynette or anyone else who sang something along the lines of “men are idiots but we have to love them anyway.” Wonder if those Blink-182 lyrics are really about some great girlfriend or just glorifying the “cool girl” trope. Get annoyed at TLC for perpetuating the stereotype that men need to be breadwinners to have personal value. Think Oscar Wilde is a bitch for saying, “Women are made to be loved, not understood.”
Miss some Kanye, some Picasso. Watch Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and enjoy the Charlie Sheen joke. Rewatch the first season of Game of Thrones and think Sean Bean did a good job. Realize that Keith Haring did too many drugs and made some things you really love. Start seeing grey areas, but become ashamed at the thought.
Double down. Don’t accept apologies. Don’t believe in rehabilitation. People never change. Trust no one. Assume the worst. Let years go by.
Listen to Beyoncé.
Previously: Qreamed Quorn
Jaya Saxena is a writer from New York City, who, yes, still has a bottle of Qream in her house. You can follow her on Twitter here.