M1 Singapore Fringe Festival 2013: Art & Entertainment

Entertainment and art are not isolated… Entertainment is in art like colour in pictures.

- Martin Kippenberger

When we examine Art and Entertainment, there is a tendency to note how diametrically opposed they can be. Entertainment is often thought of as an event or activity that provides amusement and fun for the audience and participants. It implies a means towards enjoyment; a method of diversion from the serious trials and tribulations of daily life; a distraction from matters at hand. Through entertainment, we attain pleasure for pleasure's sake, and in being entertained, our minds are put in a state of relaxation. Entertainment could mean a state of playfulness, frivolity and levity - it is to be regarded as fun, to be consumed and then easily cast off and forgotten in time.

Entertainment, with its primary aim to amuse and distract one from the harsh challenges of reality, may be stereotypical and/or reductive. One assumes that entertainment is light; it neither inspires us to ponder nor to reflect and contemplate. Entertainment reaches out to the mainstream and targets the common, lowest denominator.

Art, on the other hand, problematises an issue, unpacks an opinion, questions an assumption, deconstructs a myth, challenges conventions or an established way of perceiving reality. It engages more than entertain. It challenges one to read, interpret or make meaning of what one encounters. This is definitely a different activity from passively receiving what is before him/her; being titillated followed by a timely pay-off.

Anyone who tries to make a distinction between education and entertainment doesn't know the first thing about either.

- Marshall McLuhan

Today, lines are blurred. One of art's roles is education. For some artists, entertainment is a necessary ingredient or strategy to educate without being pedantic. It requires talent and flair to craft a work that entertains whilst it informs and educates. With the mingling and interaction of different artistic disciplines, the definition of entertainment is very much challenged in contemporary art.

Entertainment provides one of the most robust and salient ways of educating and imparting knowledge and information. Through history, the art of narrative entertainment involves the use of parables to promote certain moral codes and activate personal and social awareness. Similarly, cultural institutions are acutely aware of the importance of entertainment in reaching out to audiences, as evidenced by activities in museums, picturehouses, libraries, and so on.

Art is moral passion married to entertainment. Moral passion without entertainment is propaganda,
and entertainment without moral passion is television.

- Rita Mae Brown

A work does not have to be esoteric, cutting-edge, experimental and exploratory before it is accepted as art. What is at stake is the integrity of the work and if it is done well, shouldn't it be a piece of art, whether or not it entertains? That is why contemporary art works can be both critically acclaimed and box-office successes.

Interestingly enough, the dichotomy between art and entertainment is oftentimes drawn by art creators themselves. In today's world, few - if any - art works are composed for the sake of pleasing specific patrons, aristocrats and royalty. Yet the notion of art being the pursuit of intellectuals and the well-heeled persists today. Is this differentiation necessary or would it merely serve the purposes of inflating the importance of Art (and subsequently its creators)? Does such elitism even warrant our attention and discourse in this day and age? If art fails to entertain - and fails to communicate as a result - does it have a purpose at all in our world?

I believe that entertainment can aspire to be art, and can become art, but if you set out to make art you're an idiot.

- Steve Martin

Join the Fringe as we tease out the intricacies and grapple with the relationships between art and entertainment. 16 – 27 January 2013.

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