I wrote last time about how rejection is a natural response to art by both artists and by the community.
Since rejection is predicated on a value relationship, I’m interested in writing more about the nature of value in terms of art.
Because Americans are raised in a capitalist culture, we are taught from an early age to perceive value in all things: we are Natural Born Assessors. It is in our best interest to recognize value; inherent in our culture is the believe that high value is desireable and low value undesirable.
The three terms of value are born out of the binary of “greater than” and “less than.” A term cannot be both greater than AND less than, but a term can be NEITHER, which creates the third term of equivalency.
We are taught that the most important value to recognize is equivalency. That is, to be able to exchange one thing for another. This is most important in terms of money, which is the ultimate metaphor and the be-all/end-all symbol of equivalency.
My chapbook = $6 = 1.09 hrs of minimum wage work = 1 student movie admission + 1 frequent moviegoer soda.
Last night, a friend was telling me about another friend’s recent art exhibition. For the exhibit, he installed three wall shelves. On one set of shelves, he placed several copies of a handmade book. The other shelves were empty. In between the shelves were a set of verbose directions instructing the viewer to take a book and place “an item of equal value” on the empty shelves. Some of the things left behind: a condom. A pile of salt (or parmesan cheese?). A free postcard received at the door to the gallery. Another handmade book.
In order for there to be a value relationship, there must be at least two terms in assessment.
When we reject an aesthetic, this is a value judgement. Although it is not necessarily monetary in nature, it’s important to recognize that the nature of “rejection” is to denote an aesthetic as being undesirable.
A semiotician would theorize that we desire things that bring us toward a state of completion. On a basic level, this means food, water, shelter, community. On an aesthetic level, we search for things that bring us toward a state of artistic completion: work that creates pleasure.
Undesirable aesthetics are rejected because they do not create pleasure. Poetry can create pleasure on one level or on concurrent levels, such as mood, language, rhyme, rhythm, metaphor, music, etc. As artists we are drawn to specific and limited aspects of poetry’s pleasure-making devices, although these do evolve over time.
I’m curious about what we perceive as being “greater than” when we reject an aesthetic. It’s not necessarily our own aesthetic as poets that we’re over-valuing in the relationship.
What do we weight poems against? Other poems? A poem’s perceived potential never realized? The self? The ego? The sense of what a poem should or should not be?