Tristan Tzara

Any work of art that can be understood is the product of journalism.

— Tristan Tzara

I have always loved this quote. I think it truly represents what the role of an artist is, regardless of their medium. It is also the very thing that feeds an artist’s soul — passion. The passion to question the unquestionable – to provoke the unprovokable – to enlighten the closed-minded – to anger the complacent. 

Traditionally (though admittedly it has not been apparent lately), the role of a journalist is to provide information – facts, a story, details of an event – without bias but perhaps asking a question. Generally though it is a piece that contains an end or exists on its own irrespective of the audience. There is a separation and that is the understanding. 

Art however, asks questions – it begs for involvement. It may leave the participant sad, happy, confused, angry or even uncomfortable. It engages. It goes with you. Colors may make someone smile or a sound may cause a person to recall a memory. A dancer may freeze one’s instinctive expectations by showing the abstract while a writer will do the same by playing with characters as toddlers play with dolls. Regardless, the participant is left different than they were before. 

An artist does more than reflect life or pander to it. The artist struggles to understand it and how it works. The artist questions the wrong and questions the right. The artist studies how it works. The artist is a captain sending the audience on a voyage of discovery, including him or herself.

Photo: Moss Beach (2015) © Cheri Hierbaum

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