Pseudo Art, Hot Takes and Pub Bores make us worse artists.
A few weeks ago I had the mis-fortune of talking to a pub bore that had the hot take that Hamilton was shit because of Lyn Manuel-Miranda's tweets and an article about his fathers involvement with austerity politics in Porto Rico. It got me thinking about "hot takes" and how our relentless search for them, and therefore our own validation as intellectual sentinels, eradicate rigour, nuance, and undermine the careful, slow, deliberate, considerate, science of making Art.
Firstly I think it's important to differentiate difference between Art and Pseudo Art. The way I define the two is to think of it in terms of 5g Tower/ pizzagate/ Flat Earth etc.. lunatics. If we assume that Pseudo Science is to say that we can find a conclusion and then work back wards through sketchy evidence to prove it right without any rigour, nuance, or scientific meticulous study then that's Pseudo Science. Big bold statements that don't come from anywhere particular that aren't thought through, balanced, or interrogated and doesn't want to be proved wrong. Science on the other hand WANTS to be proved wrong. It is the result of testing, examining, proving wrong and doesn't claim to be right... it just claims to be the closest we have to the truth in this moment. If experimental medicine was proved to be the best we had it would be upgraded to medicine. So Pseudo anything is elaborate statements, desperate to be proved right, without nuance, rigour, flexibility or examination. And truth is the product of testing, experimenting, study, rigour and balance admitting it can still be proved wrong and is only the closest we can get at the moment. So how does this apply to hot takes and art?
The thing about hot takes is that they come from a place of needing to be heard. We get them a lot on twitter from people who feel like they can take up space on this platform (which I am WHOLEY for) and we get them a lot in media because journalists are often commissioned to write opposing perspectives on things. What we lack is the whole picture, the nuance, the genoristy and the rigour that it takes to really understand something, The result being that we fail to say that said pub bore thinks that Hamiltons music, popularity, re-imaging of how students engage with history, celebration of non-white excellence and generally reimagine popular theatre as we know it doesn't matter. What matters is that LMM is annoying on twitter and some random website wrote about his Dad's politics. The truth of course is that all can be true. But if we only talk about one aspect of it we are in danger of eradicating the other part of the narrative; we are in danger of not the achievements of Hamilton, not condeming his fathers politics and... well actually I like LMM on twitter so I don't care about that. But the point being - if your need to feel like your clever over rides rigour then you aint clever. You've just got a single point in a large webbed argument. (Also if you wanna get into why Hamilton isn't good I'd read up on Race and Feminism as a more useful entry point than the authors tweets - pub bore).
In Art we have to have the same thinking in our processes. Pseudo-Art, if we apply the rules, starts it's process thinking about a POINT and it does it's research to prove that point, all the characters, narrative, plot, theme, structure and story prove that POINT... It is not the pursuit of truth it's propaganda. It doesn't matter what the political or social perspective is. It's Pseudo-Art. Art should treat it's self as science. It should start with a question that it doesn't know the answer to. It's process of research should be about finding an argument through it, it should find an answer that's open to being challenged, it should dramatise BOTH sides of an argument, it should be rigorous and it's research should be present in the Art its self so we can see the argument play out to a solution. We can see the meticulous science of working things out. We can the complexity of humanity and society. We can see beyond the obvious single hot take art and into a complex investigation of ourselves, the world, and truth. It's imperative that we move beyond the lazy Pseudo-Art which is SO prevalent in theatre and towards something deeper, more complex, more useful and better for us.
So there we have it. Pub bores can be more interesting by taking in the complexity of a situation rather than wanting over there own single concept of something they read on a website. Hot Takes are only useful when they're part of a richer tapestry of understanding. Art is only useful when it works out the answer to a question as opposed to seeks to proves a point.