We all know that Art is not truth. Art is a lie that makes us realize the truth, at least the truth that is given to us to understand. PICASSO
One perverse pleasure of art is the pleasure of being lost, in the sense of being confused or in the dark. KATHRYN SCHULZ
Art is an invitation to enjoy ourselves in the land of wrongness. KATHRYN SCHULZ
In the last chapter of her book Being Wrong: Adventures In The Margin Of Error Kathryn Schulz riffs fascinatingly on the close productive relationship betwen error and art. Victorian art and literature focused on recreating the world with as much verisimilitude as possible. But the aftermath of World War I and the arrival of modernism changed all that. At its most extreme, culture had become anarchy, and anarchy culture. Tristan Tzara, the Romanian poet who founded Dadaism, urged his fellow artists: Let us try for once not to be right.
If error is a kind of accidental stumbling into the gap between representation and reality, art is an intentional journey to the same place, Schulz writes. The idea is not new. One hundred years prior to World War I the Romantic poet John Keats embraced the positive value of the irrational, and of error, doubt and uncertainty, in a letter to his brothers which contained this famous passage: ... and it at once struck me what quality went to form a Man of Achievement especially in literature & which Shakespeare possessed so enormously - I mean Negative Capability, that is when man is capable of being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts without any irritable reaching after fact & reason.
I remember the excitement and sense of personal and literary freedom I felt when first reading this momentous remark by Keats about the importance of Negative Capability, this ringing endorsement of subjectivity. Hey, yes - it was OK to experiment, to be unsure, to get things plain wrong from time to time! In other words, to be a human individual, myopic and fallible. Indeed, only out of doubt, questioning and open-mindedness, out of wrongness, does great art emerge, I firmly believe. If an artist knows the right answer from the start, what need of the artistic quest? Keats's idea led me directly to cubism, expressionism, existentialism; to Picasso, Eliot, Virginia Woolf; to the twentieth century, in short.
Schulz goes on to quote the Candian poet Anne Carson - What we engage in when we do poetry is error - and infers from this that Carson means these things: The first is that poetry is made of words, and, as we've seen, words have error built into them from the get-go. Every syllable is a stepping stone across the gap, an effort to explain something (train tracks, thunder, happiness) by recourse to something it is not (a word). The second is that writing, whether of poetry or of anything else, involves a certain amount of getting it wrong, - an awareness that truth is always on the lam, that the instant you think you've got it pinned down on the page, it shimmers, distorts, wiggles away. Last, but possibly most important, I take her to mean that poetry, like error, startles, unsettles, and defies; it urges us towards new theories about old things.