The strategic maneuver
The theater works very hard to keep awkward, amateurish, wooden performances out of the theater. I was working very hard, along with a few other people, to bring that area of naturalness and reality into the theater. Simply because it hadn’t been seen. See, when we go to a work of art, ninety percent of our reactions and our expectations are controlled by convention. We are used to seeing a certain kind of stylistic thing in the theater, and that becomes deadening, because once we are used to seeing it, it becomes a lie. It no longer speaks to us in a truthful way. Practically every important moment in the history of theater has not been “realer” or “truer” than the moment that went before, but it’s been a cold glass of water thrown in the face to wake the audience up by showing what was not expected. Which implies that the real issue in art is the audience’s response.
Now I claim that when I make things, I don’t care about the audience’s response, I’m making them for myself. But I’m making them for myself as audience, because I want to wake myself up. And I assume that other people might be woken up by what wakes me up. But, you see, art is a kind of strategic maneuver. There is no work of art that has ever been made that is absolutely truthful about life. As Picasso said, “Art is a lie that tells the truth.” And it’s a lie that tells the truth because it is the choice of a strategic maneuver, which is not the truth. No art has ever been the truth, because it has to leave out ninety percent of life. And if you’re not talking about all of life, you’re not talking about the truth, you’re talking about a distortion. So art is a perspective; all perspectives are lies about the total truth; so art is a lie that, because it is strategically chosen, wakes people up. The truth is in the audience’s, the individual’s, awakened perceptions. It’s not in the work of art.