Thursday, September 30, 2010

An artist's responsiblity to entertain

The biggest problem I had with the Zero 1 Festival, was the often lumbering and awkward presentation that kept cropping up. Even professor Wright, a woman who willingly went to Finland in winter -thus a proven tolerance for slowly paced days- complained about dullness of many of the speakers.
Of course, artists aren't necessarily entertainers, and there's a reason artistic/instructional presentations aren't called performances. Artists have numerous (sometimes contradictory) responsibilities expect of them, some of which have legal force behind them, such as plagiarism and copyright infringements. Demanding artists create entertainment along with material that moves or improves the human state isn't realistic. Indeed, since a great many things that we need desperately aren't likely to be entertaining at all (undergoing surgery comes to mind), insisting art be "fun" while it is trying to perform far loftier goals would be petulantly foolish.
However, I think it safe to say that art, well, should be fun dammit. Learning new concepts is vastly easier when its entertaining. This is true when its presented through impersonal book form, and even more so when an engaging teacher becomes involved. In order to work art has to connect with the viewer, to get inside them somehow and cause change. Boring art (despite what, as a pun, that would imply) doesn't do that very well. In my experience in fact, boring art creates its own barriers limiting its absorption by the audience. Things that bore and disappoint can create hostility directed back at them.
In a situation in which artistic presentations are also calls for funding or action by the public, disinterest could not be more lethal. Yet some of the speakers created painfully monotone reports and slide-shows that would likely disappoint corportate middle-managers. I'm sorry, but the first segment of Friday, proposing an ingenious bio-mechanical clock/park based upon the cult-classic film Silent Running, was one of the most boring lectures I've ever attended. (And once took an astronomy class as a city college.)
When the issues are this important, and the entertaining distractions around your audience as numerous as they are today, presenters can afford to assume their audience is educated and patient, they can not afford to drone.

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