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Saturday, June 22, 2013

Are artists closer to the truth, or just faking it?

By Ted Slowik

"Art is short for artificial."

These words spoken by legendary singer/songwriter Joni Mitchell in a new interview with Canadian Broadcast Corporation's Jian Ghomeshi prompted my wife to exclaim "Bullshit!" from across the room.

Joni was explaining how music is the most intimate of art forms. "The trick is, if you listen to that music and you see me, you're not getting anything out of it," she says at 43:05 into the 100-minute interview. "If you listen to that music and you see yourself it'll probably make you cry and you'll learn something about yourself, and now you're getting something out of it."

"At the point they see themselves in it the communication is complete."

She goes on to compare the performance of one's own songs to an actor performing the work of a playwright. At 1:00:50, she talks about method acting.

"Method acting is being you. It's drawing upon all your sense memory and everything. Method acting is very real. But of course it's art, and art is short for artificial. So the art of art is to be as real as you can within this artificial situation."

Great artists emphasize with their subjects, Joni goes on to say.

"van Gogh's paintings are exaggerated to make the emotional experience of these landscapes real for the deadened, you know. It's not really that blue of a sky, and the stars aren't really that big, but you're not seeing them so he's gonna blow 'em up. So in way it's a lie to get you to see the truth."

As a writer and aspiring musician I related to a lot of what Joni had to say about the process of making art, and if you can find the time I encourage you to watch the whole interview. My wife, who is an actress, director, theatre manager and professor, took issue however with Joni's choice of words that "art is short for artificial."

What do you think? How do you tell the difference between great, real art and a pile of bullshit?