Sunday, March 01, 2009

Art as ambiguity

From Boing Boing, I learned about Sita Sings The Blues:

Sita is a goddess separated from her beloved Lord and husband Rama. Nina is an animator whose husband moves to India, then dumps her by e-mail. Three hilarious shadow puppets narrate both ancient tragedy and modern comedy in this beautifully animated interpretation of the Indian epic Ramayana. Set to the 1920’s jazz vocals of Annette Hanshaw, Sita Sings the Blues earns its tagline as “The Greatest Break-Up Story Ever Told.”

I watched it online and if you'd like, you can too. Be warned: it's 2 hours long. If you just want to be entertained, watch up to 'Intermission; if you want to experience art, watch the whole thing.

I used to think that the difference between art and entertainment was related to popularity vs. morality. Entertainment gave us the stories we wanted but art gave us the stories we needed. When watching a depressing art flick or looking at an incomprehensible collection of art work sometimes feels punishing, its no wonder that this definition comes to mind.

But my definition has evolved to something closer to Steve Martin's definition: art is permanent conversation. Or, as Raph Koster says in his A Theory of Fun for Game Designers:

We also often discuss the desire for games to be art—for them to be puzzles with more than one right answer, puzzles that lend themselves to interpretation. That may be the best definition of when something ceases to be craft and when it turns into art.

Ramayana certainly lends itself to wonderful interpretation by animator Nina Paley, who has kindly and wisely released her work into The Creative Commons for further re-interpretation.

I don't know whether its the greatest break-up story ever told but its certainly a breakup story that never gets old.

1 comment:

Mita said...

"Why Rama? Why?" is my favourite line that didn't make this post.