‘I Don’t Get It’


Andrew McAllister
Culture Editor

I consider myself an art fan. Unsurprisingly this involves going to galleries, keeping track of new exhibitions and generally knowing about paintings and such. I could talk until I’m blue in the face about Dadaism, Constructivism and all the other –isms that are eminently important when talking about exhibitions that happened 50 years ago, in another country, that I assuredly wouldn’t have been cool enough to get into. Art is kind of my bag.

But there’s some phenomena in art that I just don’t understand. Tracey Emin should have just made her bed and got her act together, but she ended up winning a Turner Prize. John Cage fixated on art dealing with the creative adventitiousness of random chance, but he’s most famous for writing a song that has literally nothing going on in it. Banksy is a national treasure despite having a moody teenager’s view of satire. Everyone loves Jennifer Lawrence for being clumsy and liking pasta.

We all have our explanations for why celebrated artistry just doesn’t resonate with us. Our recurrent excuses come out; “It didn’t address X”, “I don’t like Y humour”, “Z just didn’t seem authentic”. If we all just came clean, life would be immeasurably simpler; we Don’t Get It. We know you like It. We know why you like It. We’ve spent all of the time involved with It trying desperately to agree with the friends, critics, loved ones and pets who have all venerated It. But we Don’t Get It.

Once you embrace that you Don’t Get some things, it’s freeing. Gone are the furious arguments, the dull conversations that pick apart the paper tigers of why you didn’t like the film/movie/album/poem/dance/marriage proposal. You Didn’t Get It. You’re very sorry, but you don’t. Now stop crying.

“Did you read Catcher in the Rye?” “Yeah, I didn’t get it.” BOOM.  Conversation over. You’ve avoided so much sanctimonious garbage about “how much the book meant” to them and a treatise on its “cultural significance” and “deeper meaning”. You can address the entirety of human creation without looking up from Gogglebox;

“Plato?” “He’s alright.”, “Big Brother?” “Haven’t seen it.” “The Renaissance?” “Didn’t get it.” Much tedium about the rise of Pope Julius II avoided. Also, you’ve just saved a small fortune on a holiday to Rome.

Embracing ignorance also means avoiding the perilous snobbery of affectation. Case in point: no one knows anything about wine. Unless you are an actual sommelier (notoriously under-represented in our readership) you probably know absolutely nothing about wine. You can say the names in a petty convincing accent, you may even know what goes with what and by all accounts look as if you know what you’re doing. But at the end of the day you will pick what we all pick: the second cheapest bottle in the shop. Ignorance is a great equaliser.

Admitting to Not Getting It also means you can enjoy culture without rarefaction. You don’t know why everyone likes a thing, so you can drop it or try and find out. Everything’s an adventure; if you’re not enjoying it you can ask yourself “why on Earth do they like it?” Even better, you can find reasons to like it. For example; I watch Eastenders to reflect on how good my decision-making is. Nothing makes 4th year Physics look more attractive than seeing people fight about who burned down a crap pub. (it was Stacey)

So the next time you’re sat in front of a painting, or a TV show, the latest super-hyped album or some particularly erudite graffiti , feel free to say that you Don’t Get It. And that’s fine.


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