Art isn’t Necessary

“Art isn’t necessary” written in an ugly font
and comic sans is the only font worth using

Why am I even bringing this up? Oh right…

Art is exclusionary. The desire to elevate some things to the status of art and not others is not a design fault, it is intentional and necessary. Some things must be less than for others to be greater than. There are both economic and cultural-power components to this — one example of this hierarchy (which I discussed in an earlier essay) is the idea of cinema vs movies.

K.I.T. keepittogether keepittogether keepittogether

My specific academic interest is in comedy and…

One of the things that tend to get aesthetically downgraded is works of humor — which are often seen as a borderline (if at all) case of art. There are a few reasons for this:

  • Superiority theory and the murky morality of jokes: Superiority theory states that all jokes have a butt; something that you are laughing AT and many aesthetic theories assert that art must be morally good. Therefore if you are laughing at something it probably isn’t art.
  • Laughter’s association with play and the loss of control: Humor is often seen as childish, something that you grow out of or learn to control. It is also bodily. Jokes have a way of bypassing our cerebral facilities and resulting in laughter without our “mental consent.”* Laughter may also make you cry, fall down, or lose control of your bladder (this is a mature way of saying pee your pants btw). How can we trust a phenomenon that has this much power?!
  • Meta-humor is art about art: Much humorour art (like parody and satire) is referential and derivative to/of other work. While exceptional works in these genres show how sophisticated and interesting these techniques can be, there is a general tendency to praise more-wholly original art. I believe that humorous art, even when it isn’t parodic, tends to be misidentified as parody; implying that REAL art is unfunny. This also ties back into superiority theory, because if you are laughing at something which is parodic then you must be looking down on the original work that it is based on.*
A rubber chicken
”The Rubber Chicken” is a chicken made of rubber

By excluding comedy or other forms of entertainment from the “higher arts,” you can make a more compelling case for “serious” art as being important/necessary and possibly removed from the realm of the frivolous entirely.

Entertainment is a loaded word in this discussion as well: Is there a fundamental difference between art and entertainment or is art just the cultural works that happen to be particularly good? Or maybe just the ones that make you feel smart? If you really buy into this idea that art is tangibly or fundamentally different or more important than some alternative category you’re ignoring how entirely arbitrary* this distinction process can be.

This isn’t meant to be some kind of socialistic screed for a re-appropriation of power in the art world, as much as it’s me, via the Leonardo DiCaprio-pointing-meme, gesturing towards the arbitrary bias of humorous art.

If you truly want to make the case that Art is an indispensable element of life you may start by being strategic about what you call Art…or more importantly what you don’t.

By admitting that art is essentially frivolous*, we can all perhaps be more categorically inclusive and less of a pretentious A(rt)hole.

  • The argument that art is frivolous is unfortunately one that has been made by people like politicians arguing against funding public works or school boards trying to cut music and arts programs and who want to, instead, fund (super essential things like) sports stadiums or new uniforms for the junior varsity foosball team — my goal is not to defend these sad jerks. Fund the arts — the stupid, stupid arts!

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Scott Greenberg (Scott Making Cents)

Scott Greenberg (Scott Making Cents)

Scott is a music producer and songwriter from NYC who specializes in comedic popular music and releases solo work under the name Scott Making Cents.