Apr 07

Butter-Coating Our Art, Or How I Gave Up Caring About What Is Art and Focused on Enjoying Art

Let me first say: this is going to be the one and only butter reference that I’ll ever make in a blog post. Promise. (I keep saying how no one will let me live down that one time that I might’ve danced in a kiddie pool of butter at a Jacksonville, IL poetry reading, but I’m partially to blame for the legacy living on.)

Now, I’m gonna say this: Man, I used to be one pretentious little shithead when it came to the arts. When I was younger – say, around the high school age – it was because of my inflated ego. My sworn enemy at the time and

I used to secretly read each other’s online diaries to further fuel our hatred for each other (teenage drama, psh), and I remember one time knowing that she was writing about me. She had written, “She thinks she’s God’s gift to
writing.” Yeah, back when I was 15, I sure did think so. I’m not even sure why I thought that, other than teachers’ compliments had probably simmered in my mind and created a monster.

But, as I got older, the pretentious attitude came from my time served in academia. Now, now, I’m not saying there is anything wrong academia/academic-flavored creative writing. But I am saying that earning an English lit degree left me with this false sense of knowing what qualifies as good, and that in turn meant, turning up my nose at some things that could very well have been worth my time. (Take, for example, The Hunger Games.

A while ago, I never would’ve touched them because I was all, “Ewww, what is this? It’s definitely not ‘good’ literature!” But then I read the first book and, yep, I fell in love.) And sure, there are some qualities of art that we can just tell are not typically ‘good’, but that’s a different topic for a different week.

My point for this short and sweet inaugural blog post deals with the pretension surrounding what is art and what is

an insult to art. So to speak.

How many times do we go around spewing out, “That’s not art. That’s art. Oh, that is definitely not art”? Who are we really to know? We can have our own opinions of what art is and we can (and should) use those opinions to try forming a substantial definition, but see, the problem is that not even philosophers who spend lifetimes studying the question of what is art have a comprehensive idea of what it is. They do agree (and I do, too) that there is something “special” that sets art apart from other forms of entertainment or expression, but not everyone agrees on what that thing is. For instance, could art be art because of emotion, or is it intent, and blah blah blah? So, again: who are we to know ourselves? We simply know what we create. Everything else is just something we’re all striving to understand.

So, now to the damn butter incident. Yes, one time, my friends did talk me into dancing in a pool of butter while a woman sang “Someone Like You” and a man danced behind me in a diaper. Some people regarded that as a mockery to art, as if we weren’t taking poetry seriously because we did this between readings. This is where the problem of thinking we know all about art comes in. No one ever claimed that this gimmicky little stunt was art or what have you. It wasn’t even in defiance of art. Not at all! And the truth is we all care deeply about the art form. What was it then, this stupid little dance? Fun. That’s all.

Mockery? More like beautiful regret.

Art should be taken seriously, indeed. It is very important for our society, it is critical for human existence, but it should not be taken so incredibly seriously that we cannot have fun with it, alongside it, or at its expense. Sometimes, it is when we step beyond the boundaries and delve into the batshit that we learn the most about ourselves, our groups, our art. We might learn more about what it may or may not be, we might gain experiences that enrich the concept we already have of it, we might simply walk away with story/poem ideas (which is always a good thing). But when we turn up our noses, we risk losing out on all sorts of interesting (not always in a good way, of course) experiences and opportunities.

TLDR: You should never candy-coat your creations, or look at them with rose-colored glasses with your nose tilted
upward, but, dammit, sometimes it’s just fun to get ‘em all greased up and saturated in butter.


Follow Siren Bee on Twitter @ButterDancer.
Check back for a new post every other Monday.