The Anthropocene Questioned

Image credit: I chose this image because it showed up when I searched “anthropocene”, and I thought the tires looked an awful lot like a bunch of circles, related to Doi’s work, if not as impactful.


John Green is a pretty familiar name, especially to middle- and high-school students. His Crash Course videos are a bit of a favorite among teachers, especially since they span multiple subjects. But up until a little while ago, I had no idea that he had his own podcast.

The Anthropocene Reviewed is a rather interesting variety podcast that seeks to (perhaps arbitrarily) “review facets of the human-centered planet on a five-star scale.” It’s a simple enough premise, and I think it works pretty well to get across what it’s trying to. There’s one episode in particular that I’m a bit curious about, that being “Works of Art by Agnes Martin and Hiroyuki Doi.”

Said episode, unsurprisingly, reviews art by the aforementioned artists. Green rates Agnes Martin’s collection “With My Back to the World” 4.5 stars, and Hiroyuki Doi’s collections of ink drawings 4 stars. What confuses me thoroughly about this is Green’s own reasoning, which seems to contradict itself. My question is, why did Martin receive half a star extra over Doi?

Green gives a bit of backstory to each artist and their work, in order to elaborate on why they painted what they did. He starts by detailing Martin’s past, emphasizing her strained relationship with her mother and how she wasn’t truly proud of her own work until 50 years into making art. Then Green transitions to how she portrays the basest emotions that she feels, beauty in its purest form. Though Martin’s paintings contain light colors and simple shapes, Green argues that the emotion they convey is stronger than most other art.

What of Doi, then? Well, Green spends less time on Doi’s past and more on his own. He mentions that Doi was set to be a chef, but fell into a deep state of grieving after his brother’s unfortunate passing. This is when he began to draw circles over and over, using his drawings to cope with the loss. Green relates this to a similar loss of his own, explaining why he finds Doi’s work so engrossing.

I understand what objective and subjective ranking is, and how personal bias can affect a person’s beliefs. What I don’t understand is either the premise of The Anthropocene Reviewed, or the beliefs of John Green. If the podcast is objective, then how did Green determine Martin’s work as better? And if it’s subjective, why did Green not rate the work he more personally connected with higher?

Source: Works of Art by Agnes Martin and Hiroyuki Doi

I try to, at least.