I think that the best art feels disturbing and makes you feel uncomfortable. Not for the sake of it, of course (think of some Van Trier movies self-complacently attempting to produce some kinds of ‘shock’ in the audience), but as an effect of exploring some harsh truths with the brutal honesty that only in art is probably socially tolerated. Peaceful, reconciled art doesn’t do the job.
Art’s role is to question routinary ways of seeing, to see the crack in comfortable narratives, to turn the world upside down because sometimes paradoxically this is the only way to see it for what it is. Seeking comfort in art is like expecting salt to taste sweet. It is looking for a nice distraction, not for art. Like Freud’s ‘uncanny’, art makes you realize that what usually looks nicely familiar can contain some disturbing strangeness at its core.
All of the things I’ve learnt come from discomfort, I’ve never evolved by sticking to comfort. The experience of learning itself implies some challenges to familiarity and to the sense of predictable safety that goes with it.
Director Yorgos Lanthimos is a master of this: “Discomfort. It is a feeling that in a way I consider precious. I think that discomfort, violent situations, make us realize many things, as well as silence’.