Tell it like it is? Sincerity and (In)authenticity today
The Exhibit B debacle – apart from the outrageous censorship of an artist’s work – exposes the problem of authenticity in the arts today. The artist wanted confront his audience with the reality of slavery, but his exhibition was shut down by people who claimed to feel its reality personally and consequently to find the exhibition offensive.
When literary critic Lionel Trilling suggested that sincerity had become the measure of man in modern writing, he could hardly have predicted the climate of sensitivity surrounding artistic production today. The more artists strive for a sincere connection with their audiences, the less able we are to discuss art without evaluating its corrupting worldly influences: the money – and now privilege – that made it. So why is telling it like it is so difficult today? And what might the writers of the past show us about telling it how it should be in the future?
Joel Cohen, Debating Matters Judges and Alumni Co-ordinator