The Inevitability Of Art

The following passage is from a speech that director Steven Soderbergh recently gave at the 56th San Francisco International Film Festival:

Given all the incredible suffering in the world I wonder, what is art for, really? If the collected works of Shakespeare can’t prevent genocide then really, what is it for? Shouldn’t we be spending the time and resources alleviating suffering and helping other people instead of going to the movies and plays and art installations? When we did Ocean’s Thirteen the casino set used $60,000 of electricity every week. How do you justify that? Do you justify that by saying, the people who could’ve had that electricity are going to watch the movie for two hours and be entertained – except they probably can’t, because they don’t have any electricity, because we used it. Then I think, what about all the resources spent on all the pieces of entertainment? What about the carbon footprint of getting me here? Then I think, why are you even thinking that way and worrying about how many miles per gallon my car gets, when we have NASCAR, and monster truck pulls on TV? So what I finally decided was, art is simply inevitable.

It was on the wall of a cave in France 30,000 years ago, and it’s because we are a species that’s driven by narrative. Art is storytelling, and we need to tell stories to pass along ideas and information, and to try and make sense out of all this chaos. And sometimes when you get a really good artist and a compelling story, you can almost achieve that thing that’s impossible which is entering the consciousness of another human being – literally seeing the world the way they see it. Then, if you have a really good piece of art and a really good artist, you are altered in some way, and so the experience is transformative and in the minute you’re experiencing that piece of art, you’re not alone.

Though Soderbergh has retired from filmmaking, his artistic energy is being used to tweet a novella from an account called Bitchuation

Written in second-person, “Glue” follows a yet-unnamed protagonist (“you”) to the underworld of Amsterdam and Paris, where the mysterious substance “#&%#” is coveted “because everyone wanted it and nobody had it.” Uniquely, Soderbergh also works in visual elements to his pulp fiction narrative. Photos accompany some of the tweets; establishing shots, per se, that also serve to set the mood. Crooked photos of buildings. Smudgy faces glimpsed from the corner of an intoxicated eye.

[W]hat makes “Glue” utterly brilliant is its parodying of the tradition of hardboiled pulp fiction. Using the clipped sentences and the weighty delivery one instantly associates with Raymond Chandler, “Glue” can at once seem satirical, gimmicky or earnest, playing with a tradition so overwrought with material that its almost unrecognizable in its plainest form to a modern reader.