Evan Bortnick http://musa-vocalis.de/
The distinction between Sport, Entertainment and Art is much more than just a semantic one. This distinction, together with our definition and attitude toward it make our goals, our dreams and our values transparent. I would also be so bold as to assert that fine-tuning our mindset in this regard is profoundly life-changing. Unfortunately, (or fortunately!) there is no one-size-fits-all definition. Each of us fine-tunes our philosophies over time and in differing contexts. The question is; how optimal is our fine-tuning process? Inherent in this question is the important issue of Self-Regulation and NonSelf-Regulation. In other words; who exactly is tweaking our values? Family, Friends, Teachers, Bosses, Religion, Advertising, Politicians or OURSELVES?!!! Optimizing this is one of THE most important determinants of a joyful life!
I believe it also cannot be denied that mixing the distinctions without integrity or congruence causes a high degree of stress and unhappiness. One thing’s for sure, Sport, Entertainment and Art each represent an important area of personal human need structure.
Sport, as I’m referring to here, represents the need for “Muscle-Happiness”, for in-the-body, of-the-earth centeredness…that feeling that you get after a really good run, after an orgasm, after a good swim, after playing a first-class round of one of your favorite sports activities. Colors are brighter. The endorphins are flowing. All’s right with the world. You feel alive!
Entertainment represents the need to kick back, the need for positive distraction, for relaxation combined with quality sense-engagement, the need to disengage from the daily grind and enter into another world. There is some fascinating research (see E.L. Rossi PhD) regarding human ultradian time phases in which it is proven that without this positive distraction at regular intervals many of our biological processes become dis-eased, sub-optimal and worn down. The need for “play”, in the larger sense of that term, can be found in many animals as well (see “Homo Ludens”).
Art represents the very human need for exalted beauty. It brings us in symbolic form closer to our ideals, our highest values and our aesthetic principles. Art is our striving for beauty. Art is our need to delve beneath the surface of our consciousness to contact our own creative dynamics.
I’ve had countless discussions over the years as to these distinctions and what I’m writing here is very personal, most definitely not a “Manifesto” of how it should be for everyone (even if it sounds like that sometimes). But I am convinced that each of us, ESPECIALLY artists, go through some very deep soul-searching in order to optimize their thinking inside of these distinctions. One of the most oft occurring discussions I’ve had was about the distinction between Art and Entertainment. I seem to meet a lot of individuals who are convinced, and I mean C O N V I N C E D (read; hard-wired and inflexible), that Art and Entertainment are exactly the same thing. Art, for these individuals, is merely Entertainment that has lasted over the years and/or has been accepted by enough people as being ‘really really good’. In my experience Art fulfills a profoundly different need structure than does Entertainment. I’d even venture to say, although I know of no research in this area, that the neural pathways between the two are significantly different. My own sense-reactions have a significantly distinctive quality. I admit here that ‘standpoint’ is a strong determinant in how distinct Entertainment and Art needs to be. My wife, for example, who worked for years in television, always balked at the idea of being called an “Artist”, even though many found her work creative and artistic in the extreme! An ‘artist’, in my neck of the woods, she’d say, was much too temperamental to work effectively. This was accompanied by a gesture of the nose angled upward in the air and the callous toss of a scarf over one shoulder, making obvious that she was referring to one of those TV-Divas that make life difficult for those around them.
On the other hand, a great opera singer (even without the ‘Diva’ accoutrements) would be highly insulted if one referred to her as an “entertainer”. The same is no doubt true of a ballet dancer, an actor, a painter and so many others for whom it is of vital importance to be identified with the archetype; “Artist”! As an audience member, although there is definitely a grey area, the experience of Art and the experience of Entertainment is fundamentally different. The grey area, as I experience it, is when both reaction experiences are present. Very few would, for example, call the circus an art form. Yet the circus performer is called “Artiste”. I’ve seen circus performances which are definitely close to what I would experience as art (of course, I’ve also seen operas (and opera houses), which can only be described as circuses!). As mentioned above, this is profoundly more than just a semantic distinction. Because it has to do with specific and indispensible human needs, it is of vital importance that we each find our own personal balance.
In the competitive sport forms I played as a young man as well as the sports I enjoyed watching, there were definite ‘grey area’ moments as well. How often has basketball been referred to as ‘poetry in motion’? I’ve heard from my voice teachers and have said to my own students more than once, that good singing has an important athletic component. It’s impossible to sing well (at least opera) without being truly fit.
Interesting for me of late, is how the media, at least in my corner of the world, is tending to squash Sport, Entertainment and Art together. Take as one example programs like “Pop Idol” or “So you think you can dance” and so many more. An art form, like singing or dancing, is presented as a competition, like sports, in the form of entertainment for the public. This blurring of distinctions is part and parcel of our modern times and has (at least for some) distinct advantages. One of the dominant disadvantages, in my not so humble opinion, is a watering down of many important artistic values. I’m not the first to notice how profoundly the quality of singing has declined, in opera, in jazz, in pop or in musicals. I know it’s kind of a cliché for older singers to extol “The Good Old Days”, but go into YouTube and listen to Corelli, Del Monaco or Di Stefano sing your favorite Aria. Then go to the opera house and compare. Do this with any genre you choose and even if you can find a modern singer who comes close to living up to high standards, I believe you’ll have to admit that, at least generally, our collective standards have been severely eroded! I write this to do more than just lament. A description of the problem is a description of the solution; strong and congruent distinctions between Sport, Entertainment and Art improve the quality of all three for us as a collective and for us as individuals!
Evan Bortnick http://musa-vocalis.de/