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Art and the Definition of Truth

“We all know that Art is not truth. Art is a lie that makes us realize truth.” - Pablo Picasso

Art is indeed a very interesting subject. For some, it may give them the strength to live, hope, and happiness. For others, it produces pain, fear, and anxiety. In simpler terms, art is subjective; its interpretation is dependent on the experiences and the philosophies of its viewer. Therefore, the quote “Art is a lie that makes us realize the truth.” is simply inexplicable as “truth”, as far as it concerns art, does not exist. Hence, we must first define “truth”.

The Republic: Allegory of the Cave

In the allegory of the Cave, one of Plato’s most famous images, in the fourth book of their book, Republic, the philosopher seeks to understand the nature of “truth” by demonstrating an eternal conflict between appearance and reality. It states that there exists three prisoners chained in a cave. Behind the prisoners exist a fire, and between the fire and the prisoners are people carrying puppets and other such objects. This, therefore, casts a shadow on the other side of the wall, the wall the prisoners face. Having only watched shadows their entire lives, they are poised to believe that the shadows are real and the only things that exist on the planet are shadows. Hence, in this case, “truth”, for the prisoners, are shadows. Interestingly, this simple fictional tale can be applied to our society; people are born and raised into completely different environments and lifestyles. Some may be born into wealthy families in a relatively developed country with many services and rights and thus grow up to consider these “privileges”, as some may view it, for granted. Others, on the other hand, may be raised into a rather impoverished family in an under-developed nation, as far it concerns the human development index, with fewer rights and services. Further, other factors such as religion identity, family ideologies, and societal normalities in their respective culture, religion, and country, may also affect what an individual may consider “truth” and “normal”. Inevitably, all of the mentioned factors naturally affect the ideologies and the philosophies of a person, thus changing their opinion of “truth” and how they view - and interpret - a certain work of art.

The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas

Secondly, in a philosophical fiction written by American writer Ursula K. Le Guin, “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas”, the narrator demonstrates a summer festival in the Utopian city of Omelas, where the success and the prosperity of both the festival and the city is dependent on the misery of a single child. Using this fictional tale, it is believed that the author seeked to demonstrate an ideology; happiness cannot exist without suffering. However, this is not the only interpretation of this simple fictional story; others view this poem as an indirect method to demonstrate the ways in which developed countries are supported by the exploitation of under-developed nations. The child who sacrificed for the prosperity of their community is said to have represented the underdeveloped countries that are often exploited by capitalist means of production in developed countries. In other words, the exploitation of under-developing nations results in the prosperity of developed countries. According to the Encyclopedia (Encyclopedia), it states “In capitalistic societies, particularly the United States, the wealth and privilege of the upper-class is often dependent on the exploitation or denial of the lower-classes.” as an example to support their analysis of this poem. A multitude of diverse analyses, views, and opinions exist in regards to this tale and the fact that interpretations of this simple poem, a form of art, can vary in such diverse ways depending on the different nuances, the wording, and of course, the ideologies of its interpreter, demonstrates a solid fact; art, regardless of its form, weather it is a visual art, filmography, poetry, fictional writing, drama, or dance, to mention the least, manifests itself in such diverse ways.

Hence, in conclusion, as the interpretation of art depends on the viewer’s philosophies and thus manifests itself in diverse ways, making “truth” nonexistent in art, the phrase “Art is a lie that makes us realize the truth.” makes itself inexplicable. If art truly is a “lie that makes us realize the truth”, a work of art must have one, solid definition of “truth” and all art must make everyone who views the piece of artistry realize the one, single, unionized definition of “truth”. However, this does not seem to be the case. Rather, I find it to be the opposite; all too many people interpret the “truth” behind art differently.

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