No doubt you’ve encountered the disconnect between art one likes and art one enjoys; I mentioned it myself last Thursday. The basic principle here is that we might like something for its depth and complexity, but not enjoy it on a visceral level, or we might enjoy something viscerally without lauding its inherent structural mastery and societal influence, and of course overlap is frequent. It’s a simple concept, and I think we might benefit from complicating it a little. And when it comes to complicating things, you know I’m always up to the task.
I should note that I got this idea after hearing a talk by Mary Beth Oliver, whose work now represents to me what the empirical, quantitative study of art should do. You should dig up her recent work, if you have the means.
The typical like/enjoy graph would look like this:
The assumption here is that anything toward the bottom left is something you just don’t like much at all. I’d try to favor enjoyment, assuming that most people won’t choose media only because it’s “impressive” in some way, but I don’t suppose there’s much point in fundamentally weighting the graph to account for that.
Problems arise when we consider that “enjoyment” may be too much of a catch-all. What does it mean? Pure, narcissistic enjoyment? Favoring good things over bad is not the only kind of enjoyment there is. What of catharsis? Or sympathy? The enjoyment spectrum may warrant a graph of its own.
“Appreciation” here is still a visceral response. But it’s a response that allows for the idea that unpleasant things can make for viscerally enjoyable art. I enjoy Hidamari Sketch and appreciate Bokurano, but I consider both entertaining on an emotional level.
I don’t suppose this notion will shock many of you; I’m assuming you aren’t crusaders against television and video games as purely narcissistic media, if you’ve happened upon one of my blogs (you probably wouldn’t even consider pure narcissistic enjoyment necessarily bad, nor would I). We already pay some attention to the nuances of enjoyment when charting our responses. But it may benefit us to consider how these nuances interact with the spectrum of “liking.”