What Dali can, Su-bo can’t? Artist / audience gap

An artist works, gives their sweat and soul to communicate something in a form that is somehow different to the everyday-expected. The audience engages, pays, comes, listens, studies. Different activities. If these two then disagree on the art, whose opinion matters more? Which one defines the “art”?

When there’s a jarring chasm between what an artist aims to communicate and what the audience receives,  it’s either the “wrong” audience (in time, space, culture or other demographic) or it will never get one. The bigger that gap (disagreement), the harder the personal hit (unless you made no effort and are now being hailed as a genius, in which case, this blog comes with a price; please email me.) And the harder the hit, the bigger the questions for the artist. …Perhaps, the bigger the solution.

This is an interesting space: the gap between art(ist) and audience has to be subjective interpretation, an individual’s reaction; their experience. It might be laughter, joy, confusion, boredom, anger, frustration.

But there is something in this subjectivity about the wrapping that the audience’s experience comes in: a trendy gallery v a church hall; an 85-year old past-master v a 25-year old wag; a £50 ticket or three-for-a-fiver. Dali is permitted where Susan Boyle would not be allowed to do precisely the same thing; Shakespeare gets away with a lot, because he is trusted to make it good, if not in this piece, then in Hamlet/Lear/Tempest. Many a writer feels Waiting for Godot wouldn’t get past a literary manager these days. It might be true; it might not.

So is art about intent or reception? The transmission or what is heard, experienced? This is the home of great potential pretentiousness, where people get cross about “I know what I like,” and “I don’t understand art,” vs. “they just don’t get it.”

Isn’t it clear that if “they don’t get it” then you’ve singularly failed to communicate? Art can’t exist in a vacuum; it must have reaction to have meaning: it must have an audience – hopefully, the “right” audience. And if that means donning a mad moustache or charging £50 to make your art be valued, is that justified, or is it just a case of new togs for the Emperor….?


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