Realist means…

For today’s exercise I worked with three lines from Bertolt Brecht’s text, “On Realism and Popularity”. Brecht’s political work aimed to redefine realism, shifting the definition away from its traditional associations with the use of copious “naturalistic” description. Instead, Brecht envisioned works that stripped reality of its masks, revealing the constructed-ness of images, stories and society itself.

“The oppressors do not always wear the same masks. The masks cannot always be stripped off the same way.”

“Our concept of realism needs to be broad and political. Free from aesthetic restrictions and independent of convention.”

“Realist means: laying bare society’s causal network / showing up the dominant viewpoint as the viewpoint of the dominators / writing from the standpoint of the class which has prepared the broadest solutions for the most pressing problems afflicting society / emphasising the dynamics of development / concrete so as to encourage abstraction.”

Bertolt Brecht, “On Realism and Popularity”

Brecht’s words are particularly resonant in today’s world of AI-generated deepfakes and Trumpian “alternate facts”. In this short video experiment, I played with Brecht’s image as a mask – revealing the strengths and weaknesses of the technology by placing the source video (my reading of Brecht’s text with exaggerated, clown-like faces) side by side with the AI-generated product. This technique, which reveals the mechanism by which I animated Brecht’s face, directly responds to Brecht’s call for art that denounces illusion.

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