Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Emperor's New Clothes

Yesterday we went to the theatre to view performances by young actors who had not yet finished drama school. Before the intermission we saw two episodes from A Streetcar Named Desire. After the break we were presented with a lecture, the Benefactor, by a post graduate student, Julian Hetzel, about his aims for success. Each student had been given 2000 to set up a program to create their own success.
Julian gave us a slide show in which he cleverly lead us from his aims as an artist, through his needs as an entrepreneur, through politics and hunger in the world, to his project of donating the money to a starving child – a girl child – in Africa. This was called a performance, and he had already been awarded an award for it.
At the end I asked “Where is the actor in this?” The actor was the performer who had given the presentation. Thus he had created his own success.
Bollocks! I felt cheated. My daughter, an actress, was also creating her own success, by working as an actress in commercials, by teaching in inner city schools, and by scrubbing toilets, if the need for money would arise. Without a subsidy from the government.
Riding home I realised that Julian had had us all on. He had sat in his student digs with the 2000 in his hands, thinking about the hunger in Africa. He decided to donate his money to a charity, and then spun a whole story about this being a piece of conceptual art.
Clever Julian! And we all bought it: his teachers, who stood there proudly beaming; we, the audience; even the highbrow TV station Arte, who had awarded him his prize.
Is it art? No.
Clever? Yes!

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