A Portrait: The Art Bro
First I will define the aloof concept of “Art Bro”. Lets begin with the character of your stereotyped bro. This is a man than hangs out with his other bros (they actually call each other this), they watch sports, they drink beer, they craft misogyny, and scratch their junk in public, and mansplain things with a lacklustre confidence. Most notably, these bros exclude women from their bro-ish activities, because they believe women don’t understand their world.
I have no voice in this world and neither do I want any part within it.
The negligence of the traditional bro to view women as equal counterparts in their niched social culture is also shared by the Art Bro. Instead of using football, the Art Bro will exclude women through their superior knowledge of alt/underground music and art scenes. I often like to refer to this as the “David Foster Wallace syndrome”. Yes, for some reason they have all read Infinite Jest, and like to remind you of that whenever the topic of literature is raised.
Jennifer Chan describes Art Bros within three categories: Alpha Bro, Beta Bro, and Omega Bro. Alpha being the most aggressive, “I am destined to be an artist but I am not in art school and the world is against me”, and Beta and Omega being decline to be more tame, merely only presenting fragments of their “misunderstood” self.
Their sneakers and aesthetic preferences casts a haughty shadow that constructs a sense of power and masculinity for them and a feeling of smallness and discrimination for the other. I can describe this belittlement because I have had my fair share of encounters with Art Bros.
My first encounter with an Art Bro was pleasant. He played Neutral Milk Hotel while we kissed, and took the time to describe art history movements to me at the art gallery downtown. He even asked for my opinion on his graphic design project for art school. This was brief, only lasting for the final month of my first year of undergrad. No doubt, an Omega Bro.
The last person I casually saw was an Alpha Bro. He complained on our first date how the art gallery (notice a trend here) made his head spin, “looking at all that old stuff it just looks the same”. This occurred at a low point of self confidence in my life. I was really caught up in the verve of understanding someone who, at the same time had absolutely no understanding, and yet sheer confidence of who they are.
He told me that he wanted to make controversial art that made people uncomfortable, and to resonate with them. Looking back, I am quite sure this was a reference to making pornography that would be purposed as art.
We sat outside the gallery and he smoked literally an entire pack of cigarettes. We, and by this I mean he, discussed how amazing it felt to drop acid, how Socrates did it (I had to fact-check this) and how it should be legal. This went on for probably three hours and it was -5C. I thought it was okay because I was really into his long black coat and messy hair. But let us not let the moment where he told me that people who smoked weed were boring and unoriginal.
I find it so hard to let the enigmatic quality of this person go. There is humour within it, once I got over the reasons why he wasn’t texting me back. Him and along with a future art-bro, who was quite kind, both used their reading of Infinite Jest as social and elitist capital over myself. The latter even used it as bait to reel me in (for reference, this person sent me a picture of his PBR beer can on top of the book).
The fault is not entirely within this species, but also the self. The attraction to the person who wears long coats and the same beanie everyday comes from their status in a Toronto art scene as cool, and by being with them, you must be cool by association. I wanted to emulate this person who was not me but a festering of who I wanted to be.
The fronts we put up put others down. Why do we compete to see who can be the most misunderstood or lost in this godforsaken city. Sidenote, why is everyone an artist. When the social front raises an elitist circle how do we still continue to vouch for equality?
There is a process for who can come to be this person. Typically it catalyzes from your socioeconomic status. Usually having rich parents who will fund you to living downtown and being unemployed, seems to be a pattern of success.
It is simple to humour the character identity of an Art Bro as someone who takes themselves a bit too seriously with their bleached hair, single earring and hopeful but unsure art career (I just described every boy I’ve ever dated). Art Bro Culture is still bro culture.