One Lady Gets Down for Guelph’s Live with Culture Showcase -but was art?
My colleague Cesco Emmanual recently posted an article on LinkedIn stating his dislike of the word “entertainment” as it applies to artistic practice. He wrote eloquently of the artist’s need to create autonomously without the expectation of being entertaining. He spoke of how creators work “because we want to leave marks of our craft…expresions…that will challenge the average person to think differently”. He goes on to talk about how artists have little or no obligation to entertain.
These comments truly resonated with me. As a singer as I have spent many a night feeling obliged to entertain. I have “battled ” with crowds intent on talking over and through performances, and I have “resonated” with dancers who sang along to songs I penned my very own self. I have also stared into large (faceless?) crowds who gathered and stayed but just STOOD there ’till it was their turn to applaud. And when I write a song I never EVER let these people have the last word. When I write, just as Emmanuel indicates, I seek to express myself as honestly as possible and I can’t think of others’ opinions until I’m satisfied with my work. In fact, if I’m really satisfied with my work, I don’t care about the opinions of others. I’ll stand by the work regardless.
But I need people to like it. You see, I’m trying to pay the rent and all. I think Emmanual’s comments are bang on. There is certainly an expectation of audience members to be “entertained”. What Beyonce does is a whole lot of a whole lot, but it is certainly much more than singing. When I write a song I try to make it honest so that someone else might connect with it. I’m not trying to entertain, to be sure, but I am trying to connect.
I think this conversation begs a further question. What do we as artists owe our audiences? Perhaps nothing? Perhaps honesty? Perhaps a really good question -an invitation to the conversation? Furthermore, how do we address the growing insistence that art is in the same realm as entertainment? How do we keep having the conversation with the patron, the audience, so that we can keep making the art?