Appreciating Art Not Meant For You

When Lemonade came out, there were many tweets and articles that came out about how people who were not black should not talk about Beyonce’s visual album.

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One writer named Damon Young published an article called “Dear White People Who Write Things: Here’s How to Write About Beyonce’s Lemonade”. The first step is “Don’t”.Young states

“If you consumed Lemonade last night and you feel particularly compelled to offer an assessment or deconstruction of the appropriateness of the incorporation of Warsan Shire’s words, or how Serena Williams’ twerking signals the beginning of a new post-feminist meta anti-feminism, or why Jay Z seems preternaturally obsessed with Beyonce’s ankles, or how it all connected to #BlackLivesMatter (please, please, please don’t do this), or which messages Lemonade conveyed about Black fatherhood, or Quvenzhane Wallis’s hair, take a step back from your keyboard, take a deep breath, say “Nah,” and go take a walk or something.

Of course, your words and thoughts matter. #WhiteopinionsaboutLemonademattertoo. ” -Young

This article along with other articles talk about who the audience that Beyonce is speaking to and who has ownership or a right to speak on the art. So how do we speak about art that isn’t meant for us? Or are these concerns directed at an issue of appropriation and claiming something as theirs, a modern form of colonialism?

Similar to Beyonce, Spike Lee has a specific audience consisting of Black Americans. Oftentimes in this class people have discussed their personal connections to the text that others do not have, and non-black students occupy the space as allies. I think that the classroom becomes redefined as a space of mindfulness where we are thoughtful in our decisions to speak, listen, and occupy spaces through our comments. I believe that this is the tactic that we should use to appreciate art that isn’t ours although some say that most art doesn’t belong to us.

But then how does this apply to spaces outside of the classroom? What are the boundaries? I think that this is a case of “I’ll know it when I see it”. For instance, the following covers of Rihanna and Beyonce’s songs rub me in all the wrong ways.

When does appreciating art turn into appropriating art or becomes a bastardization? Are there clear boundaries?

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2 thoughts on “Appreciating Art Not Meant For You”

  1. I like your parallel between Beyoncé and Lee’s work. You talk about Lee’s audience often consisting of black americans. So I was wondering, who you think the audience is for highly controversial films like Chi-raq that rub even black americans the wrong way?

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  2. Even for controversial films like Chi-Raq, Spike Lee maintains his audience and markets towards Black Americans. I do not believe that his success with his target audience changes his objective to create a film for the black community. For instance, if you’re a jazz musician and produce music that does not sell well, you still have the intent of producing music for the jazz community’s consumption.

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