“Is it Possible to Enjoy John Cage’s Music?” and Other Art Questions on Yahoo Answers

It’s the end of an era. After nearly two decades of consistently regaling us with gems like “why is stealing from rich people illegal?” and “HOW DO I TURN OFF CAPSLOCK,” the iconic web Q&A platform Yahoo Answers will shut down permanently on May 4, 2021.

The news that this invaluable record of humanity’s absurdity will vanish forever has ignited a firestorm of controversy. Although the website is currently still accessible in read-only mode, all of its content will be deleted by June 30. A recent Business Insider op-ed called for the hundreds of millions of questions and interactions on Yahoo Answers to be archived in order to “preserve our collective digital memory for future generations.”

From an ethnographic perspective, pleas to salvage the trove make sense. In many ways, websites like Yahoo Answers serve as important primary sources documenting the evolution and devolution of the internet. While the storied platform has given us plenty of fodder for memes, it has also contributed to the spread of misinformation and online bullying, fueling some of the worst aspects of present-day cyberculture.

As we know, art imitates life, and life imitates the internet, meaning there is no shortage of ridiculous, unhinged, and also totally legitimate art-related queries on the site. Its relentlessly inquisitive users have asked everything from how to teach fifth-graders to paint like Paul Cézanne to depressingly familiar questions about nepotism in the art world.

In honor of the laughs, tears, and moments of sheer incredulity brought to us by Yahoo Answers, and while this truly incomparable digital relic remains online, we rounded up some of the best, below:

Great point.
Yes. The answer is yes.
We are all still confused.
This person deserves a curatorial position.
If this exists anywhere, it’s definitely eBay.
I would also like to attend this workshop, please.
Might we recommend John Cage’s 4′33″, his famously entirely silent composition?
Get it?
“I’d show you but I made it up.”
Just asking!

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