Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Art Of Fucking It Up

A comment by Don Hall in reference to a discussion on entertainment v. art:

All art is populist - without an audience it is spanking it in a closet. To get and to keep an audience, the artist must entertain first and foremost, keeping in mind that the only reaction that is antithesis to "entertaining" is "bored."

Thus, something that shocks, offends, amuses, enlightens, frustrates or panders can be considered entertainment. All great theater entertains or it isn't great - it is forgotten.
I can't disagree with Don, nor would I want to, but it begs the question: if the options to entertain are so vast, how can an artist possibly fuck it up?


P.Rekk
2007

8 comments:

Don R. Hall said...

By only entertaining himself.

Paul Rekk said...

Ah, but (and this had been circling my head for a few days anyway) there must certainly be others who are shocked, offended, amused, enlightened, or frustrated by the same things I am.

My gut instinct has always been art for the artist. That's the easiest way to honesty, and honesty is the easiest way for an audience to connect to the artist as a member of humankind rather than some abstract societal position.

Tony said...

My two cents: Simply entertaining is a sure means to being forgotten. Not entertaining is a way to be ignored.

There are many, many ways to fuck it up, some (many) you only learn about in hindsight after having seen (done) it. But the majority I've seen stem from ignoring/contempt for those in the audience.

The problem for me with the concepts of "art for the artist", or "art for the sake of art" is audience. If the work is intended to be shown to someone other than the artist--then it's not really "for the art." It's for the people who it will be shown to.

Which is really, to my mind a better way to get away from some abstract societal position. Honesty is far more visible once we get off our pedestals.

For me it's less about pandering, more about awareness, this is being created for people (to watch.)

Don R. Hall said...

I've always said that the sign of a good director (playwright, improviser, actor, etc.) is that he can communicate a story worth communicating.

The sign of a great director (playwright, improviser, actor, etc.) is that he can communicate a story worth communicating and that someone else wants to hear and agrees that the story is worth communicating.

Simply put, if you're creating art for yourself with no intention of having anyone else join in the communication, cool. Just don't be discouraged when you play to an empty house more often than not. If your art is to be viewed and dialogued with by others, others that pay to see and share, your responsibility is no longer to yourself but to many.

GreyZelda said...

Tony said, "For me it's less about pandering, more about awareness, this is being created for people (to watch.)"

Theatre is an artform that involves its audience. When all the elements of a production come together, it can create something that can be universally understood, even if one of the actors is spewing, to some, gobbledegook (The Skriker).

On the other hand, in the rehearsal process, I do think you need to create the production from the view of the person you know best which is yourself. If you start directing or acting with your audience in mind, it turns into the pandering that Tony mentions. You can't play a line for the laugh that you may or may not get from the audience ... nor can you play the emotion if it's not truly there. The audience will always smell a rat.

You do have to play from the gut, first and foremost. Hopefully, the show won't bore the audience (I agree, Don, that's deadly ... if I'm directing and I feel bored, I know my audience is going to feel bored, too.). I don't think anyone wants to bore an audience. But, during the creative process, you can't call how the audience is going to react because that's incredibly hubristic. You have to create the art for the artists creating at that time. When it's time to share it with an audience, it's time ... but putting it out "just" for the audience ... it's possible it'll be craptacular.

Devilvet said...

I think when creating a piece of theater it is good to use the same sort of sensibility you do when having a conversation.

1) For the conversation to work, both parties need to be interested in what is being discussed. Both the writer/driector and the audience have to have an investment in the content. Whether that means an interest or being "entertained"...I don't now, but invested...yes

2) So if you are talking and saying jokes or making allusions that only communicate to you and not the audience with whom you are having a conversation...then regardless of your intent, regardless of who is in the audience, or whom you wish to aim your conversation... you are failing. Then the other person in the conversation isnt understanding and sudden is looking around the room for someone else to talk to.

Now some of you might say, well the metaphor doesn't stand becuase in theater the second party, the audience doesn't give and take response like in a conversation...

They respond to everything with signs and signals and sometimes even talk that we as theater artists must understand...that is how they keep up there end of the conversation.

3) You need to talk about things that interest you. If you can find a way to interest someone whom thought they weren't inversted...huzzah that's a whole new kind of success. But just like in conversation it you condescend to me, preach to me, openly show me contempt...I'm going to lose interest in completing our conversation.

I don't like to get phrase this sort of inquiry with terms like "pandering" or "art for art's sake" becuase for many of us these are incredibly loaded terms though semantically what one of us considers pandering could be way different from what another of us does.

Thinking of the work metaphorical as a conversation works for me...maybe it can work for you.

Paul Rekk said...

Fascinating stuff; most especially in that all of us are creating similar (in form anyway) art in the same microcosm and each one of us has a different basic belief in the most effective manner of approach.

Inspirational little roundtable, this.

I gotta twirl this ideas around and work shit out, which'll prolly end in a semi-divergent post, but one thing that continues to strike home for me more and more as I mature is the idea that it is impossible to create either a work that is universally loved or one that is universally hated. Bob, I liken it to your conversation metaphor (which is great, by the way), except there must be an awareness that the other end of the conversation could consist of any possible combination of beliefs, attitudes, prejudices, and sensibilities -- some combos with which you are guaranteed to fail and some with which you are guaranteed to succeed.

But the basic rules still apply -- care about what you're talking about, mean it, truly hope for the other party to care as well, and pay attention to how they respond regardless (which is not synonymous with change to what they want).

Like I said, lots of thoughts. Gotta work some shit out up here -- that would be where I would've pointed to my head -- first.

GreyZelda said...

In GreyZelda land, we look to William Ball's "A Sense of Direction" often ... I got to thinking about this conversation today so I picked up my trusty book and found this which, I think, sums up everything we all were talking about ...

"The director must believe. We are the makers of belief ... He has to believe that he could stand on he corner and sell it, that he could market it, that he could convince people of the beauty ...The likelihood of success is almost nil if the director doesn't believe in the theme ... the general beauty involves everyone.

When a director chooses the general beauty, he is making a choice on behalf of the audience. The director agrees to represent the public. The identity of the director goes like this: 'I am an audience, I am anybody, I am everyman, I am all, I am judge, I am servant, I am listener, I am moderator, I am synthesizer, I am seeker, I am helper, I am child, I am believer, and I am maker of belief.' If you take the posture of being superior to your audience or inferior to them, you have done them and yourself a disservice. What you really want is to be them, and you spend most of your time as a director pretending that you are 'anybody'. 'I am anyone who is able to give a fair amount of attention but not a lot; who has a fair amount of intelligence and a fair amount of curiosity, but not a lot.' Take nothing for granted. Work for their attention and hold onto it. The minute the director is bored, the audience will be bored."

...And it goes on and is wonderful. He's my favorite and I use the book almost as a Bible in our creative process.