What Happened to Dialogue? / by Louis Holstein

One of my favorite things about the live theatre, movie theater, or art museum is the conversation that ensues afterward. Ashley and I will often discuss our favorite parts, but more importantly, we discuss what challenged us and why. The conversation launches us into two modes: the critique (what could have been better?), and the creation (what about this piece of art inspires us to create?). I've talked at length here about what makes "good" art (in my opinion). What I've come to realize is that many people don't even question what they consume. This led me to the question: have we lost the art of conversation? Have we turned into a society of consumers that do not question what we are consuming yet all the while digesting hoards of art and entertainment?*

I've always found it interesting in how many are offended by "sex scenes" but not by "violent scenes." We are living in a violent age, I suppose a sexual one too, but one has to wonder if our lack of conversation has added to the downfall. Perhaps violent and sexual art is not the problem, but the way we consume it. Stay with me. One of my favorite films from last year was The Shape of Water (rated R for violence and sexual content). Taken at face value, that is, being consumed with no critical thought, I can see one condemning and dismissing the film as dark, inappropriate, and just plain weird. Yet with just a little dialogue and critique after watching, the same person who simply dismissed it could be introduced to the deeper themes occurring in the film. Maybe this could give context and allow that person to come away from the screening changed. 

This does not happen without dialogue. This would not happen without conversation. When we discuss what we have consumed we are able to move outside of ourselves and empathy is born. I believe that art can change the world, and this is the reason why: Art has the power to communicate truth to an audience who is vulnerable. (This is not my idea, I heard someone say something along those lines if you know who help a brother out.) I love that. I love that art can be a vehicle of truth. But with the good, there is the bad... and ugly. Art can also be a vehicle for lies. When an artist is not honest, when they are not vulnerable, they are lying. 

Outside of the San Antonio Museum of Art.

Outside of the San Antonio Museum of Art.

What I'm trying to say is, we must be able to look at the TV Shows, movies, plays, and music that we consume, take a step back, and ask, "why?" Why do we watch what we watch? Is it helpful to society? Is it beautiful? Is it honest? If we don't, then we are no better than the obese characters in Wall-E: stuffed on fast food and unable to move. I'm not trying to encourage a "hater" culture, but a culture of strong thinkers. It's actually okay to not like something. The new trend seems to be, "like everything" and "everything is amazing." Well, everything isn't amazing. There is art and entertainment out there that isn't helping society but tearing it down. There is art and entertainment that isn't excellent and doesn't even try to be.  

The bottom line is this, I want to be a part of a world where art is consumed but also debated and discussed. A world where entertaiment is devoured but also critiqued and conversed over. The only way art can change the world is if we are willing to talk about it. I don't want to lose the art of conversation.

*A note about "art" and "entertainment:" I walk a fine line between what is art and what is entertainment. This piece is more about entertainment as opposed to say "fine art", yet I can't help but acknowledge that the entertainment I'm discussing is: live theatre, movies, music, and TV- all mediums of art. So for the sake of this piece, I will be using "art" and "entertainment" interchangeably.