Sometimes it’s good to admit that you just don’t understand something.
I recently went to watch a play called Die kortstondige raklewe van Anastasia W (The short shelf life of Anastasia W), and I’m not ashamed to admit that I just don’t get it.
Yes, I got the underlying issues, like rape, murder, crime and incest, but the point of the whole thing is lost on me. I can imagine it’s like being one of the first people to look at a Jackson Pollock painting. Standing in front of the huge canvas with splashes and botches of colours could have been very embarrassing for someone who has no clue as to what the painter, and the whole abstract expressionist movement is on about.
The same goes for Marcel Duchamp’s 1917 Fountain. Seeing an upside down urinal as part of an art exhibition could be strange and weird. It becomes a case of the emperors new clothes, where everyone pretends to see the clothes the emperor is wearing while the leader walks around butt naked. If however, one understood the ideas behind the Dadaism movement, the work of Duchamp would become a lot more palatable. Indeed it would make a lot more sense if one knew the movement wanted to produce anti-art. It wanted to ridicule the pretentious idea of works of art. It was a mockery, an intellectual in-joke aimed at society and artists at large.
I tried asking a drama student if she could explain what the writer, Marlene van Niekerk was trying to tell me. “It’s really not that difficult to understand,” is what she replied while looking at me like I just asked her what a blow job is.
I still don’t get it. But I’m going to let it slide, because I get why I’m not getting it, and that maybe I’m not supposed to get it. For the play to have confused me means that it had some kind of impact. I’m pondering and even writing about it and that is enough for me.