23rd February 2015
They used to say that art reflected life until Oscar Wilde expressed the opinion that more often life reflected art. Whichever of these views you hold matters not, and both are equally valid. But any way round it is essential that a distinction be drawn between life and art, and vice versa.
I was recently watching a documentary about the Russian Revolution, the October Uprising, or if you wish to be pedantic The Great October Socialist Revolution, which took place on the 25th October 1917 for those following the Julian calender, or the 7th November if one adhers to the Gregorian system. Confused? Hardly surprising.
However, whatever the title or the date the event took place in Russia, in a city called Petrograd, which is also called St. Petersburg. So, ignoring these three alternatives of name, date and place we do know and agree that the event happened.
But to return to the documentary that I viewed. Lots of shots of the Royal family, the workers and peasants, Lenin, strikes, armoured trains and cars and soldiers with incredibly long bayonets all apparently collected from original archives. When up popped a brief snippet from October, Ten Days that Shook the World, the scene from which we took our picture oct006 from the film by Sergei Eisenstein which he made in 1928. Not a live scene at all but a cinematographic fabrication. The storming of the gates of the Winter Palace is another scene which is drafted into documentaries, another misleading example of the film-maker’s art.
So, if archivists who compile these interesting and exciting documentaries don’t tell us that the slice of film that they have included is in fact a fiction we come back to one of the original premisses which in this case suggestes that art is being used, or mistaken for, life.
The classic battle of El Alemein in North Africa, when shown as a documentary on tv often contains shots that were recorded by military camermen, of real soldiers, acting out an assult on enemy positions. Are these scenes life, or art?
And open for discussion; Did the Americans ever really land on the moon? Did the three towers all fall down by the action of two aircraft? Oh, you didn’t know about the third tower? Try Googling re-open 9/11. Are we always told and shown the truth, does life reflect art, or art reflect life? I wonder.