Art of Human Otherness and Consumers of Entertaining Art


Edward Hopper, “Two on the Isle”, 1927

Has the show ended or it didn’t start yet? Are the two in the isle dressing to leave or undressing to feel comfortably during the event? All of this is not important if it is audience-centered art: oriented on reception (not on challenge to perception), geared on the audience’s catharsis (not on otherness in the depth of what is communicated). Commercial or propagandist art appeals to your identity (even if you yourself don’t know or only partially know it), not to your otherness – your creative self. After experiencing commercial work of art (or witnessing the show) you are essentially the same as you were before.

It is a matter of viewers’ inspiration vs. their excitement, of voyeurism vs. exhibitionism, of loosing yourself or, contrary, showing yourself, of giving yourself to uncertainty vs. being taken by a reassuring self-certainty. Or it is a matter of feeling a lack inside (as a result of the encounter with art) or conversely, feeling reinforced and great (after being psychologically enlarged through consumption).

Feeling prosaic (when consumerist function is not actualized) is the destiny of a consumer. Then glamour is needed to cover the prose of your feelings to save you from boredom (glamour is to consumerism like gaining extra-weight to over-eating). Make-up and decorativeness, and big or toned muscles, or the expectation of fireworks of success are all needed to cover-up the boredom of the existence. These are necessary features of consumerist/commercial art, like metaphors veil metonymies in the depth of themselves. But in Hopper’s painting the show either didn’t start yet or it is already over. So, the time of boredom because of tautology of being yourself, without (internal) otherness and, on the other hand, without “sugar and caffeine” of consumption, is here on the very stage of the canvass – we feel it in three figures caught by Hopper’s attention on the scene of the auditorium. These people are without spontaneity – they can be agitated only by the show (by desires connected with, mainly, consumerist goals).

The show is not in action, but, may be, it is in the very presence of the three person audience. Consumerist/commercial art (CCA) is the presence of consumers (there is no other reason for producing it besides selling it to buyers – selling to buyers is a communication of glamour and glamour of communication). Hopper shows us the show that is absent, that is present in its absence – the very condition of the people who enjoy CCA. The show is boredom itself – with embellishing effects. The lady in the isle is turned toward her piece of clothing as if it has said something to her. She is a person who communicates with the items of her wardrobe. The show she came here for should be aestheticized version of this kind of communication (clothes and entertainment are equally glamorizing). At the same time, the lady on the right is as if sitting in a hat-box. She can be the personification of a hat of glamour that consumer society puts on in order to feel stimulated to continue to live with zest and taste.

But with whom is the man communicating? Look at the expression of his face – do you see his impossible gaze, a gaze that annihilates itself, a seeing that has turned itself inside out into showing itself? The man is in communion with the emptiness of his own triviality. He is just feeling himself putting on or taking off his coat. His face is blank opened to the blank openness of the emptiness.

Human triviality is a common feature of CCA and its consumers – the both pass by the otherness of the world. CCA is between the narcissistic self-fixation of the consumers of entertainment and their narcissistic projection. They are locked in the box of being identical with everyday rituals of their life – into the box Hopper signifies by the very square-like format of his painting. It is the box of being identical with the very absence of identity, a box filled with emptiness.

Three stage-set Hopper put in front of viewers – stage as such covered by curtain (that closes, eliminates otherness), the auditorium hall with rows of as if coupled chairs, and rounded boxes (on the right), is a set that represents the condition of narcissistic tautology that corresponds to the human consumption of pop-entertainment. Cystic narcissism is present in couple (in the isle), in single individual (in the rounded box) and between people and their CCA projections.