Th other day, my nephew R was visiting and I asked him if he’d seen or heard about Beyonce‘s wacky Met Gala dress. Since R is one of the most culturally literate people I’ve ever met, it was a reasonable question.
His response was to shake his head in dismay and express contempt for the idea that anyone gave a shit about Beyonce’s dress. Why should anyone care about this, he exclaimed.
I considered his question and asked, Why should anyone care about anything?
This is the type of conversation I live for. And R is always up for it.
I asked him if anyone should care about the recent auction of “The Scream,” which set a world record by selling for $119.9 million. He said, Yes, because it reflects the state of the current art market and blah blah blah.
Why is “The Scream” more important to know about than Beyonce’s dress? This is a real question. I think that everything we “care” about is just a distraction from the horror of existence. Any time you find yourself in a life or death situation, you realize the fatuousness of all your preoccupations, of everything going on around you. Your choice of car, your shoes, your blue-ray TV, your favorite band, it’s all a distraction.
Moving away from existentialism, I wonder why The Scream is worth $119.9 million. It’s obviously one of the few paintings that is instantly recognizable by any imbecile. The Scream, the Mona Lisa, and Sunflowers are probably the big three, in terms of iconic paintings, right? And I love The Scream, but only because I know it’s an expression of unversal anguish. If it was called “The Toothache”, would it still be worth all that money?
We like The Scream because our taste is a consequence of our social class. Beyonce’s dress probably strikes my nephew as too crass and lowbrow to merit his interest. He may not know that you can take a course in Beyonce Studies at Rutgers.
I am comfortable with the idea that it’s all bullshit, but it’s my nature to wonder about human behavior, even my own. As I continue to waste my time with Tumblr, I’ve been wondering how I make the distinction between real art and kitsch. I tend to disdain the latter, but I wonder if Kitsch is in the eye of the beholder. I also wonder when I’ll be able to stop distracting myself with Tumblr and TV and start experiencing my actual self again.
Meanwhile, where do you stand on Beyonce’s dress, The Scream, and whether you should give a shit? Thoughts, arguments, insults?