Eraserhead and the discussion of ART VS SHIT

Earlier this week I watched the David Lynch film Eraserhead for the first time. It’s pretty controversial, I know that lots of people find it highly disturbing and others think it’s a masterpiece. Personally, I wasn’t very disturbed by it but that said it was almost too ambiguous for me and some of the storytelling elements things weren’t clear the first time I saw it.

Watching this film led me to have some interesting dialogues surrounding “Art VS Shit”. By that I mean the opinion divide that most works of artistic expression face.

Is it art? Layered in symbolism, containing so much meaning and insight, complexity and messages that resonate with people.. Or is it shit? What were they thinking? This doesn’t make sense, it’s a pile of rubble and is completely random and arbitrary. There is no meaning. Whoever created this had no idea what they were doing.

I trust that you are familiar with the feelings I am trying to illustrate. I feel that part of this issue is personal opinion. Not everyone agrees. We all have unique preferences. That said though, there must be some line dividing the kid with the camcorder who uses windows movie maker and a painter who works for months on his great masterpiece. Right? There are some artists like Monet that were only appreciated after death. Maybe, in some works, it takes time for genius to become apparent. Maybe our inability to appreciate all things as art is the only thing in our way. I feel that art acts as a mirror for life and can show us something (either that we understand already or are unfamiliar with). We can learn something from everything, even the amature artist who “doesn’t know anything”.

This also makes me consider the divide between clarity and leaving things open to interpretation. Do we want the audience to work and make their own conclusions? Yes. However I also feel they need to understand what’s going on and sometimes ambiguity can add to a failure in that sense. For example, in a video project I made this semester, some people didn’t understand it the first time and had to watch it again. I took this as a lesson that the storytelling wasn’t clear enough, however, maybe the problem was that I had an idea in mind that I was trying to get them to understand, when really, as the film maker, I HAVE NO CONTROL OVER WHAT THE AUDIENCE THINKS/FEELS. Or maybe i’m just confusing directing theatre and that role with filmmaking. Hmmm.

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