Comment of the Moment: The Difference between Art and Entertainment:
The Neil Young Comment of the Moment is from The Difference between Art and Entertainment by D.I. Kertis:
"It is a mark of good art that an audience can relate".
This relates mainly to the emotional level. There are certain emotions that are programmed into all sane, functioning human beings. If an artist does a good job--expresses these feelings well as they pertain to him--others, simply because of the way we are "wired" should be able to relate. Of course, connection can also occur at an intellectual level. If someone is enlightened, feels validated, or at least can see where the artist is coming from when he chooses to express his thoughts and perspectives on concrete issues, this again means he has done a good job of expressing himself.
And that, of course, is the true mark of art: does it express the artist effectively? Does it convey the thought or feeling that a reasonably intelligent, thoughtful and insightful person can understand it, even if, as in an abstract poem (or one of Neil's abstract songs), the precise circumstances are left intentionally ambiguous? If so, the artist has succeeded. If not, he has failed. Simple as that. Neil has, in my view, a record of more success than failures by that standard.
Then there is the difference between art and entertainment.
Actually, it is more complex than I originally let on. The complication is that the same piece can be viewed from both perspectives and called both things. If what you are appreciating is the overall package, how all the elements come together to form what you consider an aesthetically pleasing whole, you are perceiving the given work as entertainment. If are discerning some or all the feelings and/or thoughts the piece seems to be expressing, not just its aesthetics, then you are viewing the work as art. So it is usually not fair to say that one piece is "art" and another "entertainment." This depends on how you're looking at it. Even in a work designed primarily for entertainment, such as an action or adventure film, it is rare that nothing of the creator/s shows through. Self-expression is natural when creating because you know you're perspective--thoughts and feelings--best and because we're wired for self-preservation and betterment and want space to be cleared for us rather than people trampling over us. It's also just instinct at times to add depth for a more prescient audience to appreciate.
There are also times when the artist or creator's design differs from the result. His work is viewed differently than how he intended. In one sense this means he has failed--he has not expressed himself or not accomplished what he set out do. Yet he also unintentionally succeeded in a sense, by creating something others can enjoy, even if for what he would consider the wrong reason.
And there is the part that lies with the audience: interpretation. How much stock should an artist put into misinterpretation? If he was misinterpreted by a person of decent intellect, this is a cause for concern. If a moron mistook his meaning, however, he not be alarmed. For intelligence and insight are prerequisites for appreciating art and even entertainment for what they are. Creators--whether of art or entertainment--should never "dumb" or "water" anything down for their audience, and nor should anyone expect them to. Always assume your audience is intelligent. Aim to challenge it some level if at all possible-- this will always make for a more interesting, rewarding, and fulfilling experience for the people you want your work to cater to and will likely bring them back when you make more available.
There is little point in saying something aloud if it is destined to fall on deaf ears or dumb minds.
Thanks -- as always -- D.I. Kertis!
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