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On Art and Lying

Posted on Jun 7, 2011
Wikimedia Commons / Museo del Prado

Spot the “liar”: Diego Velázquez painted himself into his famous work “Las Meninas.” The artist figures into the painting on the far left.

It’s been noted before, by the likes of Marlon Brando and others, that art might be a socially sanctioned form of lying—or confabulating, as neuroscientists might call it. Could this be true?  —KA

Intelligent Life:

Perhaps this is why we felt it necessary to invent art in the first place: as a safe space into which our lies can be corralled, and channelled into something socially useful. Given the universal compulsion to tell stories, art is the best way to refine and enjoy the particularly outlandish or insightful ones. But that is not the whole story. The key way in which artistic “lies” differ from normal lies, and from the “honest lying” of chronic confabulators, is that they have a meaning and resonance beyond their creator. The liar lies on behalf of himself; the artist tell lies on behalf of everyone.

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By Peiseleiano, June 15, 2011 at 5:55 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

So maat it be !

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By artswede, June 8, 2011 at 4:02 pm Link to this comment

This is utter jibberish, Art is a free space and not a confined box in need of an
annoying label like “a form of lying etc”.

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By gerard, June 8, 2011 at 3:13 pm Link to this comment

Jonh Poole:  What you call “excrement” is Mother Nature’s fertilizer.  Nothing would grow without it.

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By John Poole, June 8, 2011 at 8:06 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

As a trained and now productive pianist/composer/synthesist and educator I
know my creative “output” is manure. It can be useful at times but it is what I
excrete. If we had a perfect world such “excreting” as a vocation wouldn’t be
necessary nor admirable.

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By gerard, June 7, 2011 at 10:44 pm Link to this comment

“Art is a lie whose secret ingredient is truth.”
Yes, but ... art is the ability to make people “suspend their disbelief” which often means that art calls upon a “willingness to suspend”, implying that all the time the observer, listener, reader knows deep down that he/she is playing a role along with the artist or creator.  The artist intends to captivate and to deceive; the listener, observer, reader wants to be deceived.
  It is thie wanting to be deceived that explains why propaganda “works”.  The government (king, dictator, president, congress-person and media under their control) all want to deceive the public and the public wants to be deceived—most of the time about most things.
  What, then, can be truth and how can anyone find it—as in “truthdig” for example?  Does anyone want to find it?  Or does the very asking of the question force us to admit that we prove by participating that we want to go along with the deceit, that we are not at all interested in the truth, whatever that is.  We are playing a game much the same as the game we play when we go to the movies or read a book.We enter in to the “narratives” presented and in doing so, shape them to our wishes.
  The terrible danger about it is that we are living in a sea of “black-op” facts (people being killed unnecessarily, people starving, people dying in need of health care, people lying to each other for the sake of self-interest alone).  These are all our
“stories” which captivate us, but we really do not want to believe, understand, change them because we have no alternative “story”, have no confience to create a less destructive “scenario.” 
  As soon as we create that alternative, we will no longer talk, read, believe the awful narratives of present-day “truth.” We will “dig” better, more humane, more just and life-sustaining “truths.”
  We will change the “story line”, improve it, make it better, create a different “plot” that leads to a more fulfilling end. At which point a new “story” will begin.  We are, can be, should be accountable as the artists of a more human, more fulfilling
  The “Arab Spring” is a massive and inspiring attempt in that direction, creating a vision for which people are willing to give their very lives.  Think of it!  Amo, amas, amat, amamus, amatis, amant.

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