by Tomás Gutierrez Alea
Cut, no. 29, February 1984, pp. 18-21
Twenty years after taking power, the revolution has left behind its most spectacular moments. Our shaken land offered then unique, one-time only images, such as that incredible caravan which accompanied Fidel in his entrance to Havana, the bearded men, the palm fronds, and the vertigo of all the transformations that were happening. We saw the traitors and timorous ones leave, the jailors judged, and the enemy's immediate response. On our part, we saw nationalizations and a more radicalized process day after day. Later came the armed confrontations, sabotages, counterrevolution in Escambray, the Bay of Pigs, and the [Missile] Crisis of October.
Those deeds — by themselves and on their very surface — revealed profound changes occurring at a rhythm that could not have been foreseen. For cinema, it was almost sufficient just to record deeds, seize some fragment directly from reality, and give witness to what was going on in the streets. This image projected on the screen turned out to be interesting, revealing and spectacular.(1)
In that conjuncture and stimulated, or rather pressured by, ever changing reality, Cuban cinema emerged as one more facet of reality within the revolution. Directors learned to make films on the march and played their instruments by ear, like old-time musicians. They interested viewers more by what they showed than through how they showed it. In those first years our filmmaking emphasized documentary. Little by little, through constant practice, it acquired its own physiognomy and dynamism, which has let it stand with renewed force next to older film styles that are more developed but also tired.
All that shapes our history. Our subsequent revolutionary development carries us inevitably toward a process of maturation, of reflection on and analysis of our accumulated experiences.
Our current stage of institutionalization is possible only because it's based on a high degree of political awareness, which our people have reached through years of incessant fighting. But this stage also demands the masses' active, increased participation in building a new society. Increasingly, a greater and greater responsibility falls on the masses. For that reason, we can no longer have the public merely cling enthusiastically and spontaneously to the revolution and its leaders. To the degree that the government passes on its tasks to the people, the masses have to develop ways of understanding problems, strengthening ideological coherence, and reaffirming daily the revolution's animating principles. It's that process which gives the revolution life.
Everyday events proceed now in another way. The image of revolution has become ordinary, familiar. In some ways we're achieving transformations even more profound than earlier ones, but ones that aren't so "apparent" now, not immediately visible to the observer. And these changes or transformations are not so surprising, nor do people respond to them with applause or the same open expression of support. We just don't have those kind of spectacular transformations we did 15 or 20 years ago.
Cuban cinema confronts that new and different way of thinking about what social processes are going to hold for us because our film draws its strength from Cuban reality and assumes, among other things, to express it. Thus we find it no longer sufficient just to take the cameras out in the street and capture fragments of that reality. This can always be a legitimate way of filmmaking, but only when and if the filmmaker knows how to select those aspects which, in close interrelation, offer a significant image of reality, which serves the film as both a point of departure and arrival.
The filmmaker is immersed in a complex milieu, the profound significance of which does not lie on the surface. If filmmakers want to express their world coherently and at the same time respond to the demands their world places on them, they should not go out armed with just a camera and their sensibility but also with solid theoretical criteria. They need to be able to interpret and transmit reality's image richly and authentically.
On the other hand, in moments of relative expansion, capitalism and socialism air their struggle above all ideologically. And on that level, film plays a relevant role both as a mass medium, in terms of diffusion, and as a medium of artistic expression. The level of complexity at which the ideological struggle develops demands that filmmakers completely overcome not only the spontaneity of the first years after the revolutionary triumph, but also the dangers contained within a tendency to schematize. People are in the habit of falling into schematization when they haven't organically assimilated the most advanced tendencies, the most revolutionary ones, and the most in vogue, especially those which speak to the social function which the cinematic spectacle should fulfill. For filmmakers create cultural products which aim at mass diffusion, which manipulate expressive resources that have a certain efficacy. Film not only diverts and informs, it also shapes taste, intellectual criteria, and states of consciousness. If filmmakers fully assume their own social and historical responsibility, they find themselves confronting the inevitable necessity of promoting the theoretical development of their artistic practice.
We understand what cinema's social function should be in Cuba in these times. It should contribute in the most efficient way possible to elevating viewers' revolutionary consciousness and arming them for the entire ideological struggle which we have to carry on against all kinds of reactionary tendencies. It should contribute to the best enjoyment that can be gotten out of life. We want to establish what might be the highest level which film — as spectacle — could reach in fulfilling this function. Thus we ask ourselves to what degree a certain type of spectacle can provoke people's coming to consciousness and their consequent activity. We also wonder what that coming to consciousness consists of and what activity ought to be generated in spectators once they have stopped being such. That is, people leave the movie theater and encounter once again that other reality, their social and individual life, daily life.
Capitalist cinema, reduced to the condition of merchandise, rarely tries to answer these questions. On the other hand (and for other reasons) socialist cinema has not ordinarily fully satisfied that demand. Nevertheless, finding ourselves in the midst of revolution at this particular stage of constructing socialism, we should be able to establish the premises of a cinema which would be genuinely and integrally revolutionary, active, mobilizing, stimulating, and effectively popular.
The expressive possibilities of the film spectacle are inexhaustible. To create with them and fully realize them is a poet's task. But on that point, for the time being, this analysis can go no further. For I am not focusing on film's purely aesthetic aspects, but rather trying to discover in the relation which film establishes over and over again between spectacle and spectator, the laws which govern this relation and the possibilities within those laws for developing a socially productive spectacle.
(We want to express our gratitude to Professor Zaira Rodriguez and Jorge de la Fuente for their help and stimulating ideas offered during writing this work.)
"POPULAR" FILM AND PEOPLE'S FILM
Among all the arts, film is held to be the most popular. It wasn't always. For a long time, confusion reigned as to whether film was an art or not. That confusion continues because of film's popular character.
Cinema today is still marked by its class origin. During its short history, it has had moments of rebellion, investigation, and authentic achievement in expressing the most revolutionary tendencies. Nevertheless, to a large degree, cinema keeps on being the most natural incarnation of the petit bourgeois spirit which gave it life at its birth almost eighty years ago.
Capitalism was going into its imperialist phase. In principle, the modest invention of an apparatus for the capturing and reproducing of moving images from reality was no more than an ingenious toy for fairs. By means of that toy, spectators could feel themselves carried off to the farthest reaches of the world without moving from their seats. Very soon the toy left the fairground. That does not mean to say that it has achieved a more dignified and respectable status: it went on to be developed as a real industry for spectacle.
That industry began mass production of a kind of merchandise able to satisfy the tastes and encourage the aspirations of a society dominated by a bourgeoisie which extended its power into every corner of the world. From the very first moment, two parallel paths were opened up in film. It offered a "true document of certain aspects of reality. On the other hand, it had this fascination for magic. Between those two poles — documentary and fiction — film has always moved. Very soon it became "popular, not in the sense that it was an expression of the people, of the sectors most oppressed and most exploited by an alienating system of production. Rather, it could attract an undifferentiated public, a majority avid for illusions.
Perhaps more radically than any other medium of artistic expression, cinema can never leave behind its condition as merchandise. The commercial success it achieved pushed it on to vertiginous development. It was converted into a complex and costly industry. It had to invent all kinds of formulae and recipes so that the spectacle which it offered would gain favor with the broadest public. Numbers of viewers are what cinema depends on for its very subsistence. Surely it was a medium which still could express itself only in baby talk. But more than that, it's cinema's condition as merchandise and its "popular" character that provoke the resistance which has existed in circles that paid unconditional reverence to "high" art; they have not wanted to elevate cinema to the category of true art. Art and the people didn't get along.
Then some folks thought that cinema, to be art, should translate the master works from universal culture. Thus a lot of pretentious, gilded works were filmed, heavy and theoretical ones which had nothing to do with the emerging film language. Beyond those detours, surely cinema constituted a human activity which was fulfilling better than others a fundamental necessity for enjoyment. In film practice, as it directed itself fundamentally toward that objective, film language began to mature and discover expressive possibilities, which let cinema achieve an aesthetic height, although without proposing that as its goal.
U.S. cinema, with its pragmatic sense, was here the most advanced. It was the most vital and the richest in technical and expressive discoveries. From the first years of this century, it was building distinct genres — comedies, westerns, gangster films, historical super-productions, and melodramas — which rapidly became converted into "classics." That is to say, the genres consolidated themselves into formal models and reached a high level of development; at the same time, they were converted into empty stereotypes. They offered the most effective expression of a culture of the masses, who functioned as passive consumers, as contemplating spectators, as shameless in terms of letting reality not demand action from them. The genres closed down possibilities for action.
Cinema can create genuine ghosts, images of lights and shadows which can't be captured. It's like a shared dream. It has been the major vehicle to encourage viewers' false illusions and serve them as a refuge. It acts as a substitute for that reality which the spectators are kept from developing humanly, and which, as a sort of compensation, it lets them dream about while awake.
Film equipment and the means of film production were invented and created in terms of bourgeois tastes and needs. Film rapidly became the most concrete manifestation of the bourgeois spirit, in objectifying its dreams.
Clearly, for the bourgeoisie, film did not represent an extension of work, nor of school, nor of daily life with its many tensions; it was neither a formal ceremony nor a political discourse. The first thing burdened spectators were looking for in it was gratification and relaxation to fill up their free time. Surely most cinematic production rarely went beyond the most vulgar levels of communicating with its public. The important thing was how much money could be obtained with any product, not the highest artistic quality.
In the 20s the European avant-garde also made its incursion into filmmaking and left a few works in which it explored a vast range of expressive possibilities. But that was a vain attempt to rescue film from the vulgarity to which commercialism has condemned it. It couldn't put down roots. However, thanks to a few exceptional works, the movement was not completely sterile.
But it wasn't until the creation of Soviet film that the art world began to officially accept the evidence that not just a new language had been born but also a new art. This was because of the theoretical preoccupation of the Soviet directors and the practical support given to the new medium. "Collective art par excellence, destined for the masses," it was called then. Soviet cinema attained a real closeness to the movement of radical social transformation in which it was operating. It was a collective art because it combined diverse individuals' experience. And it drew nourishment from artistic practice in other media about how to be a new art, a specifically different art, about which film was definitely self-conscious. It was destined for the masses and popular because it expressed the interests, aspirations, and values of numerous sectors of the population who at that moment were advancing history. That first moment of Soviet filmmaking left profound traces on all filmmaking that followed. Today the most modern filmmaking continues to drink from its fountains and nourish itself from that cinema's explorations, experiments, and theoretical achievements, which still haven't been completely mined.
In the capitalist world, the first years of sound filmmaking coincided with the economic crisis of 1929. Cinema consolidated itself as an audiovisual language and constructed so complicated a production apparatus that for a long time it was not possible to make films on the margins of this great industry nor bypass its interests. In spite of that, in the 30s, the U.S. industry became motivated to produce a few films with a critical vision about society and about the social movement in which people were living. These films maintained all the conventions of an established and filtered language, but they also demonstrated an authentic realism in dealing with important contemporary themes. This cinema, which spoke about social conflicts afflicting everyone, arose at a favorable conjuncture, but very soon detoured towards complacent reformism. Those were the years of the Hays Code, also known as the code of propriety. It was an instrument for censorship and propaganda which responded to the interests of finance capital and which indicated the narrow ideological straits which U.S. cinema would traverse for a long time.(2)
Toward the end of World War II, with wounds still open and under politically favorable circumstances, Italian neo-realist cinema surged forward. With all its political and ideological limitations, it was a living, fecund movement insofar as it went the route of an authentically popular cinema.
In the heat of postwar France, a "new wave" of young directors appeared who threw themselves impetuously into revolutionizing filmmaking without understanding the limits of the petit bourgeois world. Among them, Godard stands out as the great destroyer of bourgeois cinema. Taking Brecht as his point of departure — and the New Left as his point of arrival — he tried to make revolution from the screen. His genius, inventiveness, imagination, and clumsy aggressiveness give him a privileged place among the "doomed" filmmakers. He achieved making anti-bourgeois cinema but he couldn't make people's cinema. Noteworthy drones like Jean-Marie Straub, admirable for his almost religious asceticism, have already institutionalized that position. Some think they are making a revolution in the superstructure without needing to move the base.
Another phenomenon inscribed in those searches for a revolutionary filmmaking practice is the cinema called "parallel" or “marginal" or "alternative." This has arisen in the last few years due to the development of technology and equipment which permit the production of relatively cheap films. It's within the reach of small, independent groups and of revolutionary militants. In this cinema, revolutionary ideology is openly put forth. It's a political cinema which can serve to mobilize the masses and channel them toward revolution. As a revolutionary practice it has been efficient within the narrow limits in which it operates. But it cannot reach large numbers, not only because of the political obstacles it encounters within the distribution and exhibition system, but also for how it's made. Most people continue to prefer the most polished product which the great spectacle industry offers them.
In the capitalist world — and in a good part of the socialist world — the public is conditioned by specific conventions of film language, by formulae and genres which are those of bourgeois commercial filmmaking. This occurs so much that we can say that cinema, as a product originating from the bourgeoisie, almost always has responded better to capitalism's interests than to socialism's, to bourgeois interests more than to proletarian ones, to a consumer society's interests more than to a revolutionary society's interests, to alienation more than to non-alienation, to hypocrisy and lies more than to the profound truth.
People's cinema, in spite of its many notable exponents and few exceptional phenomena, has not always been able fully to combine revolutionary ideology with mass appeal. On our part, we cannot accept simple numerical criteria to determine the essence of a people's cinema. Clearly, finally when we speak about the great masses of people, we have to refer to the whole community. But such a criterion is so broad and so vague that it becomes impossible to introduce any kind of value judgment into it. The number of people in a country or in a certain section of a country is no more than the coincidence of people who, looked at like that, abstractly, lack any kind of significance.
If we want to set up some kind of concrete criterion about what popular means, it's necessary to know what those people situated in that place represent, not just in terms of geographical location, but rather in terms of their historical moment and as a specific class. It's necessary to distinguish in that broad confluence which groups — the great masses — best incarnate, consciously or unconsciously, the lines of force which will be those of historical development. That is to say, which are moving towards the incessant betterment of living conditions on this planet? And if the criterion for determining "popular" accepts as its base line that distinction, we can say that its essence resides in what would be the best thing for those grand masses, that which best responds to their most vital interests.
Surely, immediate interests sometimes obliterate the midrange ones, and you may often lose view of your final objectives. To be more precise: the popular ought to respond not only to immediate interests (expressed in the need to enjoy yourself, to play, to abandon yourself to the moment or illusion, to get out of your own skin) but also basic needs and the final objective: transforming reality and bettering humankind. From this point on, when I speak about popular film, I am not referring to cinema which is simply accepted by the community, but rather to a cinema which also expresses the people's most profound and authentic interests and responds to those interests. In accordance with this criterion (and we must keep in mind that in a class society, cinema can't stop being an instrument of the dominant class), an authentically popular cinema can be fully developed only in a society where the people's interests coincide with the state's interests. That is, in a socialist society.
During the construction of socialism, the proletariat has not disappeared as a class which exercises its power through a complex state apparatus. Differences continue between city and country life, and between intellectual and physical work. Mercantile relations have not yet disappeared, and along with them certain manifestations — conscious or unconscious — of bourgeois ideology (or what is even worse, petit bourgeois ideology). Still we have only an insufficient material base to depend on. Above all, imperialism continues to exist in the world.
During this time, art's social function acquires very specific shadings in accordance with our most urgent needs and objectives. It responds to the most immediate tasks people set for themselves when they are feeling owners of their destiny and are working to accomplish it.(3) Here art's function is to contribute to the best enjoyment of life, at the aesthetic level. It does this not by offering a ludicrous parenthesis in the middle of everyday reality but by enriching that very reality. At the cognitive level, it contributes to a more profound comprehension of the world. This helps viewers develop criteria congruent with the path that society has traversed. At the ideological level, finally, art also contributes to reaffirming the new society's values and thus to fight for its preservation and development. Given that at this stage, the ideological level has primacy, art's efficacy here stands in direct relation to its aesthetic and cognitive efficacy.
I will try to establish which approaches might be most appropriate for cinema, as one of art's specific manifestations, so that it can move toward those objectives.
FROM SPECTACLE IN ITS PUREST SENSE
As with literature, film has proceeded to establish certain basic genres according to the expressive needs of each specific material. In the same way that we have journalism — magazines and newspapers — fictional literature and essays, with all their variety and shadings, all their own resources and characteristics, in film we have newscasts, short films, and feature films. Superficially we can point out affinities between newscasts and daily journalism, between short films and certain kinds of articles and reports, which usually appear in magazines; and between feature films and fictional literature, especially novels, or, and we see this more and more, the long essay. But these similarities are pretty obvious at first glance. Of more interest is to define some basic cinematic generic peculiarities and to underline the fact that, as also happens in literature, this division is conventional. The frontiers which separate genres do not hinder the interchange of expressive resources and even of specific elements between genres.
Newscasts offer primarily direct reportage on contemporary events. Certain events with a specific significance are selected by the camera and projected on the screen to inform us about what's happening in the world. You usually do not receive a profound analysis of these events' significance, but because of their very selection and form of presentation, political criteria are manifest and so is, obviously, ideology. First of all, because of the emphasis on information, the newscast operates with material very limited in time span. Nevertheless, and at second glance, these newscasts constitute a body of material that is testimony to an epoch, the importance of which is not always predictable. That is, these newscasts can acquire a growing historical value and constitute the prime materials for a later analytic re-elaboration. Such a double function turns the newsreel into a most important political instrument. The emphasis here lies in its political (ideological) and cognitive aspects. The aesthetic aspect is subordinate to them, which isn't to say that it doesn't exist or can't — or shouldn't — play a decisive role in deciding the greater or lesser efficacy of the other two aspects.
The short subject offers more variants. It can be a primarily informative report. It can be a documentary where the deeds brought to the screen — either in image or sound — were not captured directly from a real-life event but rather were creatively elaborated by the director. The intent would be to select out from an undifferentiated surface those actions that had a more profound significance, which would be manipulated in the film in terms of an analytic objective. Here the cognitive aspect takes primacy. Also, the short film includes fictional works — little cinematic poems, the narration of a short story, etc. It's generally 20-40 minutes long. That length presupposes a more elaborated structure than the newsreel has and more complexity in treating a theme. Consequently the form allows the filmmaker to go into greater depth — both in terms of information and analysis. Thus, its operation — its transcendency — is broader, and the aesthetic aspect here usually plays a certain determinant and relevant role.
The feature film is generally fiction. The plots are completely fabricated, according to a preconceived idea, and developed on the basis of dramatic principles. All this corresponds to an established convention, which can be either a support or hindrance for the best and most coherent concretizing of that idea which was the point of departure.
On the other hand, in Cuba we have extensively developed a type of feature-length documentary in which events are recreated or shown as they could have been had the camera captured them directly at the moment of their occurrence. Then these actions are arranged in such a way that they function as elements of a complex structure, through which the film can offer a more profound analysis of some aspect of reality. In addition, news reportage can get to be feature length, but that structure is used infrequently. Generally then certain exceptionally important events are registered on film and ordered in chronological order or some other way so as to facilitate viewers' better understanding of them.
Normal theatrical programming in general is composed of a newsreel, a documentary or short, and a fiction feature. Thus the basic genres, distinct but complementary, get seen at one sitting. Here viewers can experience distinct levels of mediation, which bring them closer to or farther away from reality and which can offer them a better understanding of those levels of mediation. This play of approximations, produced through seeing distinct genres at one screening, doesn't always have the greatest coherence or reach the greatest level of "productivity," because viewers then usually are seeing works made independently of each other which exhibitionists found a way to tie together only later on. Nevertheless, this possibility of mutual relations throws light on what could be achieved here, even if we are considering just the framework of a single film, in the elaboration of which the filmmaker has kept in mind this whole broad range of levels of approximating reality.
I want to focus on that genre which best corresponds to the concept of "spectacle" and which constitutes the basic product in any cinema: the feature fiction film.
First, I want to consider and put aside a very specific genre: educational film. Here, even when it's operating with the same elements and resources as film-spectacles, these films are organized in terms of a special function: to complement, amplify, or illustrate in a direct manner classroom teaching. It's like a textbook but doesn't substitute for it. A student's attitude vis-à-vis educational film is radically different from the spectator’s confronting spectacle film. Demanded of students is a conscious effort, one directed toward acquiring a specific understanding. In contrast, spectators go to spectacle so as to fill up their free time — to relax, seek diversion and entertainment, and get pleasure. And if these viewers do get out of a film some kind of conscious understanding, it's of another order. That isn't the spectator's primary motivation.
Without going beyond the framework of spectacle film, and more specifically fictional film, we can find distinct possibilities in the emphasis, according to the film's condition as a spectacle or as a vehicle of ideas. We must have in mind, of course, that always, to some degree, spectacle remains a bearer of ideology.
There's a superficial interpretation of how film (or art in general) should function in our society. This notion proposes doling out aesthetic enjoyment while you are at the same time "raising the people's cultural level." Over and over, such a vulgar stand has led some to promote additive formulae in which "social" content (understood as an educational aspect, forming revolutionary consciousness but also sometimes just diffusing political slogans) should be introduced in an attractive form. That is, the "message" ought to be decked out and confectioned in such a way that it's agreeable to the consumer palate. Something like that would produce a sort of ideological pap for easy digestion.
Obviously, it's only a simplistic solution to consider form and content as two separate ingredients, which you can mix in apt proportion, according to some ideal recipe. Furthermore, this attitude considers the spectator as a passive entity. Such a perspective can only lead to bureaucratizing artistic activity. It does not have anything to do with a dialectical understanding of the process of an organic integration of form and content, in which both aspects are seen to be indissolubly united at the same time that they work off of and interpenetrate each other, even to the point where they take over each other's functions in that reciprocal interplay. That is, we're dealing with a complex and rich process of contradictions and possibilities for development, in which the formal, aesthetic, and emotional aspects, on the one hand, and the thematic, educational, and rational aspects, on the other, reveal certain affinities but also their own peculiarities. The diverse modalities of their mutual interaction (to the degree to which that interaction is organic, following upon the premises which generate the text) give rise to various levels of "productivity" (in terms of functionality, effectiveness, and fulfillment of assigned functions) in the work's relation to the spectator.
Later I will offer some considerations about the relation between the cinematic spectacle and its spectator, and try to trace out certain mechanisms which that relation rests on. For now I only wish to point out that those distinct levels of productivity — or levels of potential functionality, which derive primarily from the manner in which the emphasis is distributed among aesthetic, cognitive, and ideological aspects — are not exclusive levels. That is to say, fiction film is basically spectacle. Its function as spectacle, in the purest sense, is to entertain, distract, and offer an enjoyment that comes from representation. Represented are actions, situations and diverse things which have as their point of departure reality — in its broadest sense. These things constitute a fiction, another distinctly new reality. And that can enrich or impoverish the reality which has been already established or known up to this point.
A simple spectacle is healthy to the degree that it does not obstruct viewers' spiritual development. However, a class-society spectacle's spirit of recreation must somehow reinforce established values, whatever those might be. That’s because these values broadly function as an escape valve to let people avoid confronting those problems and tensions which real social conflicts are generating. At this level, the social and moral accent always falls back on emotion in general. Thus spectacle, in its purest sense, just seeks to generate emotions in the spectator and to dole out a sensory pleasure, as, let's say, a sports event does. We should not mistrust this pleasure, except when lightness goes beyond that into stupidity, when happiness becomes frivolity, when healthy eroticism becomes pornography — and when, under the guise of simple entertainment, spectacle becomes converted into a vehicle for affirming all bourgeois cultural traits. Then — consciously or unconsciously — it incarnates bourgeois ideology. That is, even "entertainment" films which apparently "say nothing" and are seemingly simple objects of consumption, those films could also fulfill the elemental function of spiritually enriching the spectator if they did not, to use a coined expression, promote "ideological deviationism." Consumption does not — and should not — have the same meaning in a capitalist society that it would in a socialist one.
But if we want to go further, if we want film to serve something higher (or do the same thing, but do it more profoundly), if we want it to fulfill its function more perfectly (aesthetic, social, ethical, and revolutionary), we ought to guarantee that it constitutes a factor in spectators' development. Film will be more fruitful to the degree that it pushes spectators toward a more profound understanding of reality and, consequently, to the degree that it helps viewers live more actively and incites them to stop being mere spectators in the face of reality. To do this, film ought to appeal not only to emotion and feeling but also to reason and intellect. In this case, both instances ought to exist indissolubly united, in such a way that they come to provoke, as Pascal said, authentic "shudderings and tremblings of the mind."
Thus, we don't have a case of any old emotion to which you can add a dose of reason, ideas, or "content." Rather it's emotion tied to the discovery of something, to the rational comprehension of some aspect of reality. Such emotion is qualitatively distinct from that which a simple spectacle will elicit (suspense, the chases, terror, sentimental situations, etc.) although it might well be reinforced or impeded by those.
On the other hand, it's good to remember that cinema, in the well-intentioned process of shaping its objectives to aptly fulfill its social function, can neglect its function as spectacle. If it appeals exclusively to reason or to the viewers' intellectual efforts, it noticeably reduces its efficacy because it is forgetting one of its essential aspects, pleasure.
Art expresses its development not only in a successive change in function, according to the distinct social formations which generate art across history. Rather we also see an enrichment and a greater complexity of the resources which art has at its disposal. From the magician cave artist to the artist of the scientific era, the art object has taken on diverse functions. Successively, it has had the function of being an instrument to dominate natural forces, of one class dominating another, of affirming an idea, of communicating, of knowing one's self, of developing a critical consciousness, of celebration, of evading reality, of compensating, or of simple aesthetic pleasure. Every historical moment places an accent on one or another of these functions and denies others. Nevertheless, we must not forget that all of these functions form one body of accumulated experience, and out of all of them, some valuable element endures which will enrich the others. The various levels of comprehension (or of interpretation) of an artistic work become juxtaposed and express art's accumulation of multiple functions across history. Thus, the cave artist persists in all real art, and if he was never effective enough to attract real bison, certainly he was able to mobilize the hunters. Suggestion continues to operate with greater or lesser success, according to the specific circumstances of each particular work. That's how so many artistic works operate when they prefigure victory over an enemy or exalt a warrior's heroism. But the course of history has given us another type of artist who works as well through reason, through understanding and who, in specific circumstances, fully attains his or her objective. The various functions which art has fulfilled have enriched artistic activity with new expressive resources. The magnificent arsenal of resources accumulated across history which contemporary art has at its disposition permits it to exercise its functions at all levels of comprehension, suggestion and enjoyment.
(Continued on page 2)