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The Animation Pimp: In Search of STUFF Part 2: Yummy and Yucky

The Pimp continues his analysis of art with a look at "taste." How do we assign judgement and why?

Illustration by Andreas Hykade. Courtesy of Chris Robinson.

Illustration by Andreas Hykade. Courtesy of Chris Robinson.

Last month we checked out some philosophical takes on what art is and why people do it. Now that we've determined that basically anything made by humanity is art, we can turn our attentions to judgement and specifically how we determine what we like and don't like.

We are always judging STUFF: I don't like this. I don't like that. Thumbs up. 4 stars. This tastes like shit (a strange statement because it implies the classifier is familiar with the taste of shit -- and even then there are different types -- man, woman, child, dog, cat, bird). This is beautiful. This is ugly. These are pronouncements of taste. Taste is subjective. Feeling and Knowledge are taste's guides.

What is Judgement? (Kant)

Brain = thinking/feeling/desire Thinking = understanding/judgement/reason

Understanding = Halle Berry is a woman. Women are human.

Reason = I see Halle Berry + my penis rises = I find Halle Berry attractive.

Judgement = Halle Berry is a hottie.

Judgement = reflective and determinant

Determinant = Halle Berry has boobs (particular) = Halle Berry is a woman (universal)

Reflective = Halle Berry is a hottie (particular) = Women are hotties (NO universal) = what is a hottie? (Need to find a universal)

When u judge u go through 4 processes or "moments:"

Detached You don't "lose yourself" in the movie but still find it pleasurable.

Universal I expect you to share that belief.

Multiple meanings Walt Disney wanted to tell a love story. I like the design. You like the story. Halle likes the acting.

Necessity I want to convince you philistines that my judgement is right.

Detachment + Universal + Multiple Meanings + Necessity = Common Sense

Common Sense = Common Cognitive Reactions

(e.g. "Check out Tex Avery's Magical Maestro, you'll laugh your ass off.")

experience of art = experience of life = ethics?

What Does It Mean To Have Taste? (Bourdieu)

Pierre Bourdieu (in his nice little scribble, Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste) says that our tastes are not, as Kant seems to think, some "gift of nature," but rather closely tied with our education (quality, duration) and social origins (i.e. family, friends). These origins generally dictate the manner in which we consume culture.

Consumption of culture is an act of communication that requires deciphering. So a work of art (whether it is Sleeping Beauty or Flying Nansen) is only going to be interesting to those who have the code that can decipher the work. Those who don't have that access will be limited to superficial chaos. For example, "That Eddie Murphy sure is funny in Shrek." This person will be stranded (according to typical ART views) at this superficial level and be unable to identify the "stylistic properties" of the work. When we ask this person why they think Eddie Murphy is so goddamn funny, they might not be able to articulate a response and instead say, "I dunno...he just makes me laugh...there's something about him."

When Mr. Pop encounters a work it is almost as if he applies the experience of life to art, whereas Mr. Pure (i.e. intellectual) actually breaks with the ordinary experience of the world and detaches himself from WHAT is represented. Bourdieu suggests that those detachers are, in the process, distancing themselves from all that is human. Mr. Pure rejects the common passions or emotions that we invest in our daily lives. Mr. Pop relishes in empty involvement or vulgar pleasure. In short...Mr. Pop is willing to lose himself in a film while Mr. Pure detaches himself. As such, Mr. Pop goes right in the face of Kant's 4 moments because he obviously does show interest.

"Taste classifies, and it classifies the classifer," says Bourdieu. We judge each other by the choices/judgements we make and this is unfair because we are not all playing from the same level playing field (education/social origin). Some tastes are "tastes of necessity." Mr. Pop eats filling, economical food (McDonalds) out of necessity. Mr. Pure fine dines, notes presentation, serving and etiquette because he's got a "taste of liberty."

What does all this mean? First, Kant's notion of taste as something natural is a load of cow chew because, as Bourdieu suggests, it is tightly connected with social rearing. Secondly, taste becomes a means of social control because it serves the interests of power and distinction because of its emphasis on individuality and rivalry (i.e. academics are notorious back stabbing status seekers). In short, taste (and its rejection of natural enjoyments -- low, coarse, vulgar, servile) is a word those in power have (consciously or otherwise) created and defined to keep us slugs in line.

But hold up here...we're only talking about THOSE twits who DENY Mr. Pop (i.e. not all), there are plenty of us who appreciate both the vulgar and the refined. And what about the reverse? What about those who ignorantly lash out at/reject the world of Mr. Pure and denounce, for example, McLaren, Quays or Breer as self-indulgent wanks? Is this not just a reverse form of discrimination on the part of Mr. Pop? If we understand Mr. Pure's rejection of Mr. Pop as a denial of sameness is then Pop's refusal of Pure a rejection of difference? If so, what does this say about Mr. Pop's ethics? Is his rejection of non-narrative, experimental, abstract or foreign art, xenophobic?

Well kiddies...stay tuned till next month when in this Pimp column, different Pimp link, we explore sex, death and the FEAR OF A NON-NARRATIVE PLANET!

Chris Robinson is but a man. His hobbies include squirrel taunting, meat dancing and elderly peeping. You can find the results at