I’d really like to have some kind of reverse dictionary for strange words. For example, there is this word for this thing that happens when you see or hear something completely incoherent, and your brain tries to make sense of it. When you are confronted with random nonsense, your brain will try to find a pattern in that to match your preconceptions. That is how conspiracy theories work, and also some forms of contemporary art.
I experienced a very good example of this during my high school time. One day we picked random words from our textbook and assembled them into something like a poem. We showed the result to our german teacher and asked him if he could see the meaning. He came up with an interpretation on the spot.
When we told him that we had just picked words at random, he argued we had enganged in an artistic process. Therefore our words did have a meaning, even if we denied it.
The flaw in that reasoning may seem obvious, but our teacher didn’t care. He had learned that anything can be art, so our text was also art. Since art has a meaning, our text had a meaning, too. Of course you could also suspect that he just mistook those words for art, and would have looked really awkward in admitting that. But that’s beside the point.
When you’ve learned that anything can be art, the only way to tell art from non-art is by checking wether it’s in a museum or not. If it’s in a museum, or if somebody calls it art, it must be art. No matter what it is. And if you see something in a museum you know that it must be art – so your brain makes up an explanation on what the artist intended.
Some people will tell you that this is exactly the way art should work. That if you think about something as art, and make up little stories about it in your mind, it becomes art. This is very close to the truth. Unfortunately it’s, in most cases, just a polite way to tell you to shut up and stop criticizing, because you “just don’t get it”.
Once you get entrenched in this line of thinking, you’ll loose your freedom to reject stuff. You can’t call a pile of random rubbish a pile of rubbish any more because possibly, maybe, that pile has a deep and profound meaning. You just didn’t get it. In fact, if you admit that you see nothing but a random pile you are likely to be told that you don’t understand. I had that kind of discussion with a Beuys fan once. He got really emontional when I suggested that Beuys’ work might just have been sort of a practical joke. The guy was deeply offended, just because I didn’t share his interpretation.
When you think like that guy you will also loose your ability to see and appreciate things for what they are. In fact it’s much better to be fascinated by some really amazing nonsense than to pretend the nonsense is showing the suffering of the world.