My parents came to see the show.
It wasn’t straightforward but they did make the effort and it wasn’t easy for either of them at their age. There had been somewhat of a pre-amble via my mother. Would they understand it ? Was she right in thinking it was about how we see so much news on the tele these days? Well yes and no I said. It really puts you on the spot and it’s something I’m never sure about. How much to explain?
The temptation is to ramble on about all the different layers and nuances of the various pieces and how they somehow inter-relate and inform one another. I could hear I was confusing her on the other end of the phone. My search for clarity was actually making it sound more impenetrable. I rewound and suggested, yes she was right, but it was also about other things too. The path between patronising and elitism is steep on both sides. I’m not sure I stayed on it.
But it is a big consideration when trying to put over what one’s work is ‘about’. The temptation is to lapse into ‘art language’. With well trodden art expressions one can be safe in the knowledge that either:
a. what you are trying to say will be so vague and generic in its terminology that you can’t make an obvious fool of yourself or
b. the listener will have insufficient knowledge of the context in which you use those words, that they will find it difficult to do anything but nod politely.
I really do believe you should be prepared to explain your work… but the trick is to suggest that your own view may only be one way of looking at it. To imply that the viewer may actually have a different but equally relevant way of looking at the work may seem obvious – but to people like my parents it can seem a daunting idea, and one that they might not want to engage with.
Usually we are given something, told what it is, and presented with a conclusion. It’s so much easier that way for many people and I am aware that suggesting it can be read in different ways can be construed as a cop out or woolliness.
Anyway they made the effort so good for them. I hope they might go see other such contemporary offerings… but I’m not holding my breath.
For my part I see my work as an on-going research project – so it can’t really have a conclusion. Unless I discover the meaning of life – but I’m prepared to settle for a meaningful life instead!