Monday, November 30, 2009
Each time I read "Art" I find something new in it!
“Art” a play by Yasmina Reza has a universal theme on the complexity of human behavior in our modern time.
Although the play appears absurdly simple on the surface, but digging inside the dark comic crackling language, one will find many complex layers in its undertone. It deals with serious subjects we face in today’s human communication such as: narcissistic interactions, vulnerability, the meaning of friendship, the games of power and ultimately the tremendous need for love, sense of belonging and affection.
Serge buys a white painting with three scars on it for a huge sum of money. His friend Marc accuses him for his bad taste and deconstructive perspective of modern art. Ivan, less privileged in his social class, and overwhelmed by his personal problems, tries to mediate by pleasing both Serge and Marc. But the conflict is beyond the white painting. It is about their infatuation and obsession with an egoistic desire for conquest. In other words, the characters’ self gratification and ambition drive them to dominate and control others in order to gain power. Respecting each other’s freedom is only used by them in theoretical verbal debates. In practice the essence of this matter is not truly exercised! Ivan challenges Serge and Marc’s gobbling contemptuous language and criticizes their ingenuous actions by philosophizing the meaning of freedom:
Yvan: …”If I’m who I am because I’m who I am and you’re who you are because you’re who you are, then I’m who I am and you’re who you are. If, on the other hand, I’m who I am because you’re who you are, and if you’re who you are because I’m who I am, then I’m not who I am and you’re not who you are…” (P 41)
As the play progresses, Reza shows how underneath the three character’s confrontational accusations lies an enormous vulnerability. And a strong need for unconditional love, affection and self-approval.
Marc: …I enjoyed your admiration. I was flattered. I was always grateful to you for thinking of me as a man apart. I even thought being a man apart was a somehow superior condition, until one day you pointed out to me that it wasn’t.
Serge: This is very alarming.
Marc: It’s the truth.
Serge: What a disaster…!
Marc: Yes, what a disaster!
Serge: What a disaster!
Marc: Especially for me…Whereas you’ve found a new family. Your penchant for idolatry has unearthed new object of worship. The artist!...Deconstruction! (P: 52)
At the end, three characters express their profound lonely world in their monologues. Ivan explains that only irrationality would bring humans together.
Ivan: …In fact I can no longer bear any kind of rational argument, nothing formative in the world, nothing great or beautiful in the world has ever been born of rational argument. (P: 62)
And Marc, who has despised this piece of white painting through the entire play, at the end interprets it with a profound poetic tendency and describes it as a world where a solitary man appears and disappears into the landscape. That‘s how humans journey into life.
Marc: Under the white clouds, the snow is falling.
You can’t see the white clouds, or the snow.
Or the cold, or the white glow of the earth.
A solitary man glides downhill on his skis.
The snow is falling.
It falls until the man disappears back into the landscape.
My friend Serge, who’s one of my oldest friends, has bought a painting.
It’s a canvas about five foot by four.
It represents a man who moves across a space and disappears. (P: 63)
“Art” has a playful, verbal dancing dialogue with certain musicality and rhythm which makes any actor eager to take part in acting a role.