Suffering for Art

Artists get credit for suffering for art, but what about the viewers?

I sat watching a play, in the leftmost corner of the gallery where a chilly draft plagued me, for over 2 hours. It wasn’t torture to be cold, and an angle that wouldn’t suffice for TV watching or Internet surfing was somehow worthwhile for the stage. At the end of the play, like a bunch of trained monkeys, everyone watching hit their hands together to make a slapping sound. Why do we clap? How is it more civilized than howls or stomping? It signifies our enjoyment, but what is this quality of aesthetic enjoyment–this dreamy break from reality that takes on the guise of reality? Why is a simulacrum of reality more pleasurable to watch than the thing itself?

Aesthetic expereince, whether it’s a play or a painting, is a combination of cultural expectations and an innate human need to image. While we may frame our experiences with a stage or strips of wood to set something off as art, art moves us in a very innate way. So then we express our reaction by hitting our palms together…?

We are a strange animal.

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