One of the things I managed to miss out on on vacation—being all disconnected from the interwebs and all, or at least trying to be—was the surge of popularity around the now-famous viral video Double Rainbow.
This video, embedded above, is hilarious on many levels, with much of its appeal already been summed up by Youtube comments like "Imagine how he would react to a Bag of Skittles," "Gimme some of whatever this guy is smoking," and "weed + too much time out west + camera = this video." (To be fair, many commenters have also acknowledged the emotional courage that could be needed to post a video of oneself crying over a rainbow. Oops, make that a "double complete"!)
Anyway, the video cracked me up for many of the same reasons it cracked millions of other viewers up.
Still, part of what is hilarious about this video is that it captures a phenomenon that can relate to art criticism—namely, a phenomenon where the author is seeing something that a lot of others just aren't seeing. Like, I love the parts of this video where Hungrybear9562 zooms in on the rainbow, as if to show us more clearly the hallucinations that he is experiencing. I think the something similar can sometimes happen in art criticism (albeit on a less intense level!) when a critic thinks a work is totally amazing and goes into more descriptive detail about it to convince the reader of same.
Writing all this down, it occurs to me that it sounds like I'm implying all rapturous art criticism must simply amount to hallucination. And that's not my position. But I certainly have read my share (and likely written my share) of reviews where the critic is literally saying that they are seeing infinity in a work, that the work has taken them to this "other place" beyond space and time. And (at least as a reader) I'm looking at reproductions of the work (or even the work itself) and going like "Dude, really? There's infinity in this painting? I don't think so." Or, more reasonably: "Dude, really? There's infinity in this painting? For everyone as a fact? Um, I don't know about that. I believe you had that experience, but I don't think it's always there for everybody."
In the end, I guess the point that's in common is that it's all about subjectivity. Where Hungrybear9562's experience of seeing infinity/god/the universe in a rainbow is no doubt drug-induced, I guess that what happens in criticism sometimes is that when we sit down with a work and engage with it, when it has certain psychological or visual cues that are meaningful to us—or hell, if we just happen to be on drugs that day—there's the potential to see infinity/god/the universe in that work too. But I guess the point is also that that what we see, and the intensity with which we see it, can come more from within us than from without us.
Anyway, dudes, I'm not going to overthink this one and say "WHOOOOOAAAAAA, IN THIS DOUBLE RAINBOW VIDEO I SAW THE BEST ANALOGY FOR ART CRITICISM OF ALL TIME!!!!! OH MY GOD!!!!! WHAT DOES IT MEAN???" (though I must say the repeated asking of "what does it mean????" also reminded me of reading and writing art criticism). I know to leave this well enough alone now. And know that I should never, ever, under any circumstances bring a video camera with me to the galleries.
Friday, July 16, 2010
Posted by Leah Sandals at 1:03 PM