21 November 2008

I Got Q's Letter of the Day!

Yesterday, on Jian Ghomeshi's show, Q, Jian interviewed playwright Jonathan Reynolds. Raynolds maintained that contemporary theatre is too left-wing, that artistic directors are too timid, or too politically motivated, or both, to mount productions of plays that have a more conservative or reactionary bent to them. Playwrights and directors, on the whole, tend to be liberal and sit toward the left end of the political spectrum. Thus, potentially controversial plays that question the so-called progressive doctrine (like Reynolds's own Stonewall Jackson's House, for instance) are rarely seen. It's a far-left conspiracy, dontcha see? It's a clear case of cause and effect.

Well, not so clear in my book. Looking at this cultural issue through a McLuhan lens allows us to see the effect-and-cause aspects of it, and that led to me writing to the show, and being selected as (cue the David Byrne and Brian Eno loop of "Regiment") Letter of the Day:
I think that your guest, Jonathon Reynolds, was (sort of) right, but for the wrong reason. Yes, it's probably true that most playwrights, artistic directors, and artists of all types are more left-wing in their political, and especially social views. But it's not *because* they are politically and socially lefty that their art reflects progressive topics, subject matter and critical approaches. Rather, it's the other way around: their art allows them to probe the ills and dysfunctions of society and their humanity moves them to cry out as latter-day Paul Reveres: "To arms! To arms! The greedy, the selfish, and the liars are coming!"

Marshall McLuhan, the great Canadian media philosopher (who gave us "the medium is the message," and "the global village") had great respect for art and artists as probes into the nature of our society:
"The job of art is not to store moments of experience but to explore environments that are otherwise invisible." (from McLuhan Hot & Cool)
"The artist makes new perception that changes all the social ground rules." (from Take Today: The executive as dropout)

As McLuhan observes, artists have the uncanny knack of being able to probe society as it is, to find human dyanamics that are hidden from the most of us, and turn it into public spectacle for all to see. It's not that they are necessarily politically left-wing. It's that so much that robs us of our humanity has been created, and obfuscated, by those who are politically right-wing.
Thanks for choosing me. It's an honour. And, sorry about hurting your brain with this one!

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1 comment:

opit said...

Talk about hurting one's head : I was looking at Wikipedia entries on political systems when this one hit me between the eyes
Makes one think.