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Artists: please don't teach me anything, I just want to enjoy myself.

The public takes no part in the ongoing debate about the role of art in society. Government and art-makers argue or engage constructively with each other. Visitors' opinions are not sought. Hence this contribution. Of course, my voice is just one of thousands. I can only give my own opinion.

Last week I attended the play Kreuzersonate, if only desire stops. Based on Tolstoy's book, with acting by Angela Schijf and Tom Van Landuyt and live music by Beethoven, Bach and Arvo Pärt. About how passionate love is doomed to burn out. A wonderful performance that I would recommend to anyone. See also the trailer below.

Very nice music and rock-solid acting, in other words. But did I learn anything from it? No. I enjoyed Schijf and Van Landuyt, the violinist and the pianist. As did all the people around me, because our applause was grand and heartwarming. But on the way to the car park or on the bike in the cold, we had long since forgotten that Tolstoy message about passionate love. We basked in the warmth of the evening of theatre we had been privileged to witness.

Plays are supposed to be urgent. Actors want to hold up a mirror to me. Age-old operas are adapted so that they tell something about our contemporary society. And a visit to a museum apparently adds to my civilisation.

I don't care about any of it

So what about all those emotions art is about? Love, anger, revenge, jealousy? Life and death? Sorry artist, but I don't feel for a moment that you can teach me anything about that. There is a gap between your world and mine and I'm fine with that.

Of course, we can bridge that gap. See the example of my visit to Kreuzersonate. But then it's about beauty. About sharing feelings. About a shared experience. About laughing, crying or dancing together. And not about a teaching moment for the viewer or a message from the maker.

Are there no exceptions to this? Of course there are. The film Layla M. can be used perfectly well in secondary schools for discussions on radicalisation. In a review by a colleague, I read that in a play for children aged 4+, the lamb Joep fell in love with the cool lamb Dirk. Fine. But those are performances for other audiences. Not adult art-goers like me.

Don't we all want the same thing?

And then also something about those adult art-goers. Those ladies and gentlemen standing next to me at the cloakroom dressed up for the premiere of Parsifal. Neat people with whom I worked on the exhibition See man - 100 years, 100 faces Museum De Fundatie. Music connoisseurs who join me for a cup of coffee in the interval of a classical concert or the film nerds with whom I sit down to a bokbier after a film at the Arthouse. Visitors to the higher arts. We feel elevated above the people who go to a blockbuster into Pathé, laugh tears at Brigitte Kaandorp and perhaps cry at a Frans Bauer song.

But why really? I increasingly ask myself. Entertainment, emotion, escape from everyday worries. Don't we really all want the same thing?

Good to know

The performance Kreuzersonate, if only desire stops can still be seen until 1 January. For the playlist see here 


Onno Weggemans

At CulturePress, I combine my passion for culture with my love of writing. I have a broad cultural interest and target a wide audience. I like to choose a personal angle and like to experiment occasionally in terms of form.View Author posts

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