Apr 18, 2016

A Study in Feedback

We’ve all heard the expression “If you like it, give it a like, a thumbs up, vote up etc.” coming from various artists on the internet, including youtubers, 9gagers and so on and so forth – but what does it all mean?

One could think that they are asking for votes to get higher in rank, to be seen better, to trick the algorithm of various sites (including Google) into thinking their content is more interesting, more important. While it may be so for some of the artists, and that is perfectly okay in a competitive market, others might have something else in mind when they ask for your feedback.

Often the aforementioned expression is accompanied by a “leave a comment” prompt or “subscribe”. Again, while this does help some artists reach a wider audience, at the same time it offers something much more valuable – feedback.

What is this “Feedback” you speak of?

Yeah, seriously, what is it to an artist? The little like, the share, the simple comment that states “lol” can mean a lot. It is a confirmation that someone, out there, is actually looking at what the artist has created and that his creation got a reaction.

Never, ever, underestimate a human’s reaction and the way it affects us on so many levels.

Imagine, for the sake of this article, that you just won the lottery. You are super excited, you wanna call someone and let them know this, share the excitement with them. Whoever you call (be it one of your parents, a sibling or your best friend) should have an appropriate reaction.

You would expect them to be excited with you, to share in the energy of the moment, right? Well, now imagine that you call said person and their reply is: “Really? Ok.”

Afterwards they hang up. How would that make you feel?

Okay, let’s take it one step further. The lottery was not exactly something you controlled, so let’s say that you worked for years and years, studied like crazy to get into your choice of college.

Same situation, you call someone to share in the moment, you got into your favorite college, and their reaction is underwhelming. Yeah, they are happy for you, but they don’t show it in any way.

Need we take this further to the artist who spent days/months/years working on something?

Feedback in a Flashback

Mel Brooks, a film director with a rather unique style, made a parody once entitled “History of the World”. The film had its funny moments and, as any film that tries to hit big audiences, had some vulgar elements as well.

One notable scene, which was meant to provoke laughter, might be giving off subtle hints towards something a little deeper.

In this certain scene, a caveman shows off his work of art to another caveman. He’d just painted the inside of a cave with his depiction of nature. The observer, the Feedbacker (let’s call him that) looks at the art and proceeds to show his dislike by urinating on it, thus becoming the world’s first “Art Critic” as the movie narrator underlines.

Of course, it’s a parody, nobody knows how cavemen actually reacted to the “artists” back then… but doesn’t it look plausible? We could debate a long time over this simple shot, but I’ll brush through it quickly now.

Albeit rude, the scene itself is relevant to the entire “Feedback” element. You will notice that the reaction of the artist is one of acceptance, he even gets patted on the back by one of the background characters in a consolation-type gesture. Should this scene be continued, would we not see the artist trying to get better at it? Could you not imagine him working even harder on his next cave-painting?

While being a complete jerk, the Art Critic is necessary in the artist’s development. I’m not saying now that we should all go and pee over other people’s work, no matter how much they deserve it, but rather understand that the action of “making art” needs a counter reaction which can be either supportive or destructive.

Eros and Thanatos – Love and Death

We all know that art is born out of the artist’s love or hate towards something. It’s not an exclusive duality, but it is the most common. Should you feel love towards something, you want to paint it, to dedicate a song to it, to write fanfiction of it… and, in the equally strong direction, should you feel hatred or sadness towards a subject you have the tendency to “get it all out” through art.

This can be applied to a multitude of situations, yet most notably people have very strong feelings towards their creations, no matter the source of their creative genius, their muse, their inspiration or catalyst.

It is said that both Creation and Destruction (Eros and Thanatos) come from the same place in our hearts. When we create, we’re looking for reflections in the world around us. We’re looking for mirrors, not out of egocentrism, but out of the need to belong, to be accepted, to be validated as beings that matter.

I’m not one to be religious, but a passage from the Bible comes to mind as I write this. I think it was related to the Apocalypse – I kind of only read the epic parts. 😀 Sorry about that.

At one point, God speaks to an Angel. (Revelation 3:14-3:16)

“To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God, says this: ‘I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. ‘So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth.”

I’m not interpreting the text of the Bible, but I am merely quoting this as something interesting to look at. I could just as well quote “Moby Dick” but I haven’t read that one yet.

The idea of being neither hot nor cold, but lukewarm, can be a beautiful metaphor for the idea of a Feedback, of a position, of a role you can take as an “Art Critic”. Should your reaction be underwhelming regarding someone’s work, you could quite possibly send out signals without actually doing anything.

You see, when you look at someone’s work and there is no reaction from you, no feedback – when you say neither “I like it” nor “I hate it” – you do not offer anything useful back to the artist and the artist can feel like his/her contribution to this world meant nothing.

The artist cannot improve his/her creations, he/she cannot fix the mistakes and better the style. When your answer is lukewarm, or rather inexistent, passive, non-active… your presence is null. You’re covering the mirror that the artist is seeking within you.

So what am I supposed to do?

Nothing : )

You don’t have to do anything if you don’t want to. This article was written just to remind some of you that behind every video you see, behind every image, every written word there is a person, or a bunch of persons, who are showing you what shines inside them.

Should something shine similar within you, consider giving a like, or a share, or even leaving a comment to let them know that they’re not alone.

It means more than you think it means. Our opportunity to create is your opportunity to react.

Thanks for reading!



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