Summa Ars Celare Artem

Summa ars (est) celare artem. Motto of the old The Arts Club in Montreal, whose members have included all the greatest names in the older history of Canadian art, including Group of Seven, et al. It is commonly translated in the sense that the height of art is to conceal the making of it. Make it look easy. But there’s a higher meaning, of import in our present circumstances of making non-verbal theatre. (Sorry: I didn’t mean for that progress in the concept to slip in without more discussion in our forum.) The higher meaning might be regarded as a leverage of implication or inference. It’s that what an audience sees is only the handle end of the lever, the tip of the iceberg. What they actually feel most powerfully is what they INFER from what they see: what necessarily follows what they see/hear; what they cannot help but realize on their own, that hits them indirectly. It’s what happens off-stage, that delivers the whammy. What happens in the psyche of the viewer, that was triggered by the stage event. Each movement of the play should be conceived and developed this way, so that the audience is constantly dealing with powerful and difficult implications, echoes. Ideally, the train of events would link these alter-perceptions, these secondary recognitions, in a dramatic progression, that climaxes in yet a higher level — levering a greater weight — that is accessed by the realizations, the recognitions and feelings, that have grown throughout the play. Thus, the art on the stage is actually “hidden” (celata, from celare), or, overwhelmed, by the summa ars of what goes on in the assaulted and tortured and ecstatic imaginations of the audience. There are a couple of formulas for achieving this triggered emotional complusion. One is that while the characters are going about their daily chores, vast dangers, invisible to them, hang over them. The audience feels, knows, that the characters are in imminent danger. But the character seems oblivious, and goes about gathering his roots or stitching her leather. The emotional message: life is so risky we can’t even face its reality. But we carry on. Another would be, in this instance, something like a family sitting around having dinner. Common enough. But what evokes other layers in the audience’s perceptions is that dinner is a full large animal carcass, none too fresh, and the individuals are hacking through the hide with sharp stones and pulling out bits of raw meat and bones, and small children are crawling in and out of the carcass and sitting in it, happily eating what they can pull out. In other words, the audience is probably more moved by the filth and savagery than they are by the view of a family at dinner. In other words, our stage events pull deep strings based upon the audience’s assumptions, preconceptions. We play mercilessly with the audiences given, unexamined mindset. So, OK. Come on, people. Let’s come up with some other examples that can be crafted into stageworthiness. Here’s one: an election in the clan, to determine who is leader. A candidate takes the stand, makes a campaign speech (beating his chest, making grimaces, waving his spear, making really uglly scary noises). An opponent takes the stand, tries to lure attention away from the other candidate, to his own campaign. Bigger scaries, noises, grimaces, etc. Maybe a third candidate takes the stand. He quickly kills the first two, and, smiling hugely, waving his arms in victory, he scares away other contenders. The crowd is impressed. He steps down, swaggering, grabs an admiring female, pulls her to him in a grandiose, friendly hugging gesture, and whips her around backwards and fucks her. Big cheers. So, in other words, some emotional and conventional modern apple carts are upset. I don’t know. See what I mean?

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One Response to Summa Ars Celare Artem

  1. Terminator E says:

    and if the voices in the UN-style headsets were dry and proper Oxbridge Athropologist, that would be funny for laffs.