It can be a fun and very enlightening process to look at a painting or sculpture and “decode” the symbolism contained therein. We did this all the time in my art history classes and when done carefully, thoroughly, and responsibly, it not only fostered a deeper understanding and appreciation of the art in question, it often provided a unique window into the mores and traditions of societies now long gone.
But what Beck does reminds me less of art history class and more of those videos I watched in my high school youth group that “uncovered” the Satanic messages and symbols in the artwork of rock n’ roll records. “If you turn this Blue Öyster Cult album upside down, hold it at a 45° angle, and squint really hard, you’ll see that that tiny white blob in the corner is obviously a pentagram.”
At the 8:20 mark in the video below, Beck references Mark 8:18a (“Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear?”). It’s one thing to have “eyes but fail to see”; it’s quite another to have eyes that only see what you want to see.
If you look hard enough, you can find almost anything you want in a piece of art: communist imagery, Christian imagery, Satanic imagery, etc. That doesn’t mean that that imagery is actually there, or that that is what the artist intended to communicate. (And it’s especially easy to miss that if you begin exchanging the facts surrounding the art that you’re “decoding” for rabbit trails and non sequiturs.)