Continuing the discussion of why my son doesn’t like art, or more seriously, why we like some art and not others…
Why does everyone have such different tastes in art? The experience of an art piece seems like a combination of the inherent qualities of the piece itself as well as all the experiences and inner dynamics of the viewer at the moment the two come together.
Forgive me for dipping into some arcane philosophy, but this brings to my mind the Phenomenological school of thought founded by Edmund Husserl in the early 20th century (yet another interesting cultural influence raising it’s head around that time). He proposed that the essence of a thing is not found in some external object (the thing as distinct from us) but in the relation of the object and the perceiver. He said that we “constituted” objects by perceiving them. This also reminds me of one of the major concepts of quantum theory, which is that “objects” only come into existence when we become conscious of them.
One of the challenges of this school of thought is that of “intersubjectivity” – how do we know we are all referring to the same object if the object’s essence depends on our unique perception of it? Well, maybe we shouldn’t be so sure of our shared experiences – have you ever stood next to someone at a gallery and listened to them describe a piece of art and thought to yourself, “Man, are we looking at the same piece?”
At some level, I guess we’re never really seeing the same thing as anyone else.