It means whatever you think it means.

I keep ending up in conversations with people who don’t want their art (usually writing, but we’ll go with “art”) to mean.
“Well, here’s what I got out of your story,” I say. “What did you WANT me to get out of it?”
“Oh, nothing. In fact, I aimed to confuse you,” or “I wanted you to get that it was banal and shallow,” or “I wanted you to feel bored, experience tedium, understand monotony etc.,” or “I wanted you to be unsure of exactly what took place, plot-wise.”

I am to the point where I hate this shit. I mean, I can see the point of trying to create productive doubt in the reader. Maybe. By my definition of productive doubt, anyway, which is more like meditating on things we think are real and true that upon reflection aren’t, or oughtn’t be. There are artworks that thematize doubt in a way I can get behind (Borges’ The Aleph, although that’s a hella simplistic reading of that text…am trying to avoid using the word “ontology,” shudder).

But I seriously don’t get making any of these problems the endgame of your art. I see how by trying to not make a point, that then becomes the point–you can’t get outside the problem; art can’t NOT mean. But because this is the case, I’m sick of people who seem intent on ONLY thematizing this problem, as if the desire to not mean–or even just mean something boring, or mean something so confusing you can’t follow it–were somehow therefore interesting.

Your wordcount has wasted my life. I can’t get those hours back. Someone tell me why this is an aesthetic I should care about? Because at this point, I AM SO OVER IT.

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4 thoughts on “It means whatever you think it means.

  1. I see a lot of things every day that don’t mean anything. That’s called “life.” When I go to art, if someone has organized it in such a way that it is as meaningless as observing random events in life, then my reaction is “congratulations, you’ve wasted your time and mine.” I want art to complement life; I want the mirror it holds up to have distortions and focal points, not be simply a reflection.

    I’m on your side here, DB.

  2. Once again, Tim took the words right out of my mouth (though he worded things much more elegantly than I would have). There’s something very lazy and very juvenile about the “I meant it to be purposefully confusing/vague/monotonous” art. It’s as if these writers are still testing the same boundaries as adolescents. Can I say this curse word? Can I mock my mom to her face and get away with it? It’s much harder to move someone than bore them. I’m with you–I simply find the stories you describe tiresome.

  3. I can’t help you, sorry. I just write stories because if I killed that many people or blew up that much shit in real life, I’d be in prison and I really hate powdered eggs. šŸ™‚

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