The double-edged sword

by Tim Licata | 1 September 2015

A play is real but not real… It’s a fiction but it’s true.

I recently had the pleasure of being ensemble leader for one of the ensembles at The Hague bonsai high school festival at the British School in The Netherlands. The theme of the festival was Art as illusion and we took inspiration from the Escher Museum in The Hague. The museum is dedicated to the works of the Dutch graphical artist M.C. Escher. Escher’s work is a beautiful combination of imagination and skill and a great illustration of how technique, or artifice, is essential to give form to the imagination.

One definition of artifice is: “the use of a clever trick or something intended to deceive…”. A good artist is skilful in the use of artifice to create their work. But does art deceive? My own sense of art and certainly of theatre, is that, though fictional, an artistic expression is attempting to reveal something of the human experience that is essentially true.

Escher’s art also exhibits a wonderful playfulness. His technical ability allowed Escher to play with perspective and create his imaginatively impossible drawings. His imaginary scenes and worlds convey an inner truth about our understanding of the world. Artifice allows artists to give form to their imagination and imagination is the fuel of play. In theatre, play is the vital spark that brings artifice, or the techniques of stagecraft, to life.

In daily life, we usually don’t want to stand out. We wear a “social mask”; an acceptable idea of ourselves that we present to the world. We don’t want to fail.

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