What Art Is

Anne Bogart's picture

While studying at Bard College in the early 1970’s I joined Via Theater, a group of likeminded theater majors founded by fellow student Ossian Cameron. The company began as an active investigation into the work of the Polish theater director Jerzy Grotowski, specifically around his seminal book Towards a Poor Theater.  After many months of grueling physical work five mornings a week in the basement of an old college dining hall, Ossian made a left turn and proposed that we use the summer months to “take theater to the people.”  And so, very much in the ethos of the day, this is exactly what we did.

Chance and Form

Leon Ingulsrud's picture

An old friend and colleague from my time in the Suzuki Company Of Toga, Toshihisa Nishikibe said to me once that the true goal of any good artistic practice is freedom. How do we free our voices? Free our bodies? Free our minds? It is by presenting to an audience a human in a state of freedom that we truly offer our world something nourishing and useful.

The Art Brain

Anne Bogart's picture

The purpose of art is to impart the sensation of things as they are perceived and not as they are known. The technique of art is to make objects “unfamiliar”, to make forms difficult, to increase the difficulty and length of perception because the process of perception is an aesthetic end in itself and must be prolonged. Art is a way of experiencing the artfulness of an object; the object is not important.” - Viktor Shklovsky 


When I enter a museum, I tend to shift unconsciously to my art brain. I prepare myself to experience the exhibition on hand with a special lens, with my aesthetic sensibilities dilated. There are so many wonderful examples of visitors to museums who mistake a mop and bucket left out by a maintenance worker for an art installation. How perfect! How instructive. How useful. In a reverse instance, would a viewer respond the same way to a masterpiece normally enshrined in the Metropolitan Museum if they beheld the same work displaced, say, at a garage sale?

Am I a Tuning Fork?

Anne Bogart's picture

“This play resonated with me.” What does that mean?  Why does a particular play, painting or piece of music resonate with me, and others do not? The Oxford dictionary defines resonance as, “responding to vibrations of a particular frequency, especially by itself strongly vibrating.” Resonance is what ripples and radiates when something is created. One energetic being influences the vibrations of another.  If something has resonance for me, it typically means that it has a special meaning or that it is particularly important to me. 

new profile picture shot by Al Foote III

Akiko Aizawa's picture

Hi, I changed my profile picture since I’d changed the appearance in public with my natural grey hair. 

©Al Foote III  #alfoote3photograpy


Fragility, Discomfort, Vulnerability and Curiosity

Anne Bogart's picture

The fragments fly apart and shift, trembling on the threshold of a kind of fullness: the minor wonder of remembering; the greater wonders of forgetfulness. (John Koethe)

Perhaps I became a theater director thanks to the special brilliance of Adrian Hall who was the founding Artistic Director of Trinity Repertory Theater in Providence, Rhode Island from 1964 until 1988. My first experience of professional theater happened in 1967 at Trinity Rep when I was 15 years old as part of a new program entitled Project Discovery, instituted with support from the newly founded National Endowment of the Arts. Thanks to this initiative, every school child in Rhode Island had the opportunity to travel to Providence to see theater. I arrived in a caravan of big yellow school buses from Middletown High School and my first experience of professional theater was Hall’s production of Shakespeare’s Macbeth.  Afterwards, I felt somehow altered and provoked.  The production roused me and gave me direction. I did not really understand what I had seen or heard but the experience galvanized me; physically, mentally and emotionally.  My life would never be the same. 


Anne Bogart's picture

We work in the dark - we do what we can - we give what we have. Our doubt is our own passion, and our passion is our task. (Henry James)

In a recent public interview, novelist Margaret Atwood was invited to read a passage from her book “The Handmaid’s Tale.”  Afterwards, a bit in awe, the interviewer asked, “How did it feel to write that?”  Margaret Atwood responded rather sternly, “I have no idea.” When pressed further she said, “When you are skiing down a steep slope, you do not think about what it feels like to ski down a steep slope. If you did that, an accident might occur. It is dangerous to think about what you are feeling. You are skiing.” 

The Actor and the Cathedral

Leon Ingulsrud's picture

During the 1948 summer session at Black Mountain College, John Cage presented a series of performances of music by Erik Satie. In order to contextualize what was then considered radically avant-garde music, he gave a lecture “In defense of Satie.” He began by pointing out that art is caught between, on the one hand, the desire to fulfill the needs of the collective, through tradition and on the other hand, the hunger for originality and individuality.

The Experience of Theater

Anne Bogart's picture

someone sees a play. they ask, what’s it about? i’m, like, you just saw it. it’s “about” the experience you just had. … blank face. … but what’s it about? they ask again. … hmm. maybe it’s time we chat about how the play is the thing & not a stand in for some other thing

(Twitter message posted by playwright Caridad Svich)

In Search of Shared Meaning

Leon Ingulsrud's picture

I recently had a conversation with someone that was the kind of conversation I don’t have often enough. This person was a relative stranger. I don’t want to go into specific detail about the content of the conversation (no, it wasn’t about politics) but it was a fairly deep conversation of some consequence between two people who’s fundamental world views differed.

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