November 7th, 2010 / 1:57 am

Differences, casually.

Maybe the primary makings of and differences between art and entertainment are this: art is more intensive, and entertainment more extensive. That the properties of art that seem powerful are harder to measure, harder to define or classify. That entertainment is more obviously calculated, patterned. And that, if you feel you have to, you can measure both properties and use whichever name you want.

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  1. mxlplk

      Sure, like how it’s easy to define what entertainment does (it’s right there in the name), but hard impossible to define art and what art is supposed to do

  2. zusya

      a quickie contradistinction:

      art is a journey, entertainment an activity. one requires fine tuning of the senses, focus. the other requires passivity, indulgence. one hopes to elucidate, the other mollify. one ingratiates, the other sates. too much of either (when working in cooperation) leads to unpleasant bodily sensations.

  3. jereme_dean

      entertainment is never truly about entertainment.

      art feigns nothing.

  4. Mike Meginnis

      I had an instructor who told me I was an entertainer.

      It was completely liberating. I’ve never looked back and I try not to make the distinction. Entertainment is any art that attempts to be enjoyable for its audience. It needn’t be stupid or hollow.

  5. pete

      no difference between art and entertainment. art is just slightly more entertaining entertainment.

  6. zusya

      if someone had told me i was an entertainer when i was younger, i might’ve either thrown a fit or just put on my best thanos face and given them the evil eye.

      if someone were to say that to me now, i might feel the same as you did, perhaps even complimented.

      i’d also probably start doing a bit of soft shoe with a side of jazz hands for good measure.

  7. Bradley Sands

      There doesn’t need to be a difference. I think the best art is also entertainment and vice versa.

  8. RyanPard

      I think there’s a significant difference. Unless we’re using a pretty broad definition of what it means to entertain. Then maybe there isn’t.

      I tend to think that to entertain means “to divert the attention; to amuse.” I think that it can be limiting to read everything as entertainment. I also think the art/entertainment difference runs on a spectrum, and the effort to determine whether a thing is only art or only entertainment can lead people astray.

      Much of the stuff I like to make is supposed to be entertaining to some degree. Some is not. Some lies in the grey in-between area.

  9. Mike Meginnis

      I think I might have felt that way in the years before that too.

      Being an entertainer is great. If someone tells you to say something smart, it freezes you. If they tell you to say something stupid, you often come out with something brilliant.

  10. Rebranding

      it seems pretty obvious to me that both “art” and “entertainment” are versions of the same fundamental thing, the most appropriate name for which seems to be “entertainment”. i don’t understand how any one could disagree with this. it seems like it would be good if people started calling “entertainment”, as it is usually considered, “amusement” and then both “amusement” and “art” could be “entertainment” without any denigration or stigma. or whatever words people want to use. i think i agree with ken baumann’s first definition/distinction, seems like they are the main/only plot points on the continuum.

  11. Ken Baumann

      What is storytelling?

  12. deadgod

      I think there’s a useful distinction between “entertainment” and “art”: entertainment distracts one’s attention from the very things that art presses upon one’s attention.

      (This difference ultimately is not one of authorial intention, though often – always? – authors intend something of what their texts do.)

      As Ryan P. suggests, the conversation must depend on how broadly the terms are defined/being used. Of course one can handle the words so as to make their overlap large or practically mutually inclusive. But to me, that overlap – the fact that both “entertainment” and “art” occupy one’s attention – depends on a vacuously loose handling of the terms.

      These are the remarks of an identity-egalitarian elitist.

  13. Rebranding

      “entertainment distracts one’s attention from the very things that art presses upon one’s attention.”

      i don’t really understand definitions like this because some “entertainment” is all about “pressing upon” the viewer, like horror movies (not that horror movies can’t be “art” just that even examples that would “universally” be considered not art require the [at some level] unwelcome thrusting of content) and some art is all about “distracting”, the sense of the conscious exclusion of things or “re-focusing”. i think i do know what you mean, but it just seems like more of a description of most art then a like a fundamental “definition”, something that assesses the qualitative difference.

  14. deadgod

      Well, let me get at the terms, then.

      Yes, horror movies ‘press upon’, in the senses that a) they show images that most of us turn away from or avoid altogether: viscera, say; and b) they sustain suspense – elongate the sense of threat – fictively where most of us would work to reduce those threats.

      But these compellings-of-impression distract from, and provide the succor of distraction from, authentic pain and death, at least in my perspective of horror movies. At the end of a horror movie, is one really thinking carefully about the difficulty of great bodily trauma, and about how “death” is an abyss from the empirical vantage of being alive? – or is one, by way of having been (merely) titillated by images suggesting pain and death, turned away from taking them seriously and towards a relieved and relieving vicariousness of spectatorship?

      At the end of Oedipus, or King Lear, that’s you eyeless and with your world broken and dead around you. If one can make the same argument for The Tenant or the first Saw, each of which – the former much more than the latter – I rate highly, then that’s an argument that an “entertainment” has been made into a work of “art”, or “art” of a work of “entertainment”. Do you argue this for most of the horror flicks you’ve been ‘entertained’ by??

      (The same point can be made with, say, Norman Rockwell and Cezanne, or with Journey and Mozart, albeit with less, well, visceral of a ‘hook’ that the respective former makers neglect and so let us notionally off of. Rockwell and Journey make things that one looks at or listens to, but not things that cause one to wonder at what ‘seeing’ and ‘hearing’ are – ultimately and immanently – attentive to.)

      By “distraction”, I absolutely don’t mean that artists don’t ‘exclude’ and ‘focus’ where entertainers do! In a Bergman movie, most of the people don’t go to the bathroom or worry about money or are shaken by imagining the environmental catastrophe that modern technologically-comforted life is hurtling towards – so, in a way, Bergman is ‘distracting’ us from thinking about these things. But he’s not ‘distracting’ us from thinking itself, from thinking about sex and revenge and dread and power. That latter “distraction” – from ‘final things’ – is the function and, I think, purpose of “entertainment” as opposed to “art”.

      In this line of argument, “distraction” is a description that does ‘define’.

  15. zusya

      someone telling someone else something that happened.

  16. deadgod

      someone telling someone else something that happened = telling

      all telling is ‘storytelling’; the mind narrates irresistibly

      Ken, can you sharpen your question? what are you asking?

      zusya, i think ‘passivity’ is a helpful differentia

      with entertainment, the sensation is its own object, and is consumed (almost) without residue when it has registered itself

      with art, the sensation, however luxuriantly it’s experienced, transports as a matter of its registration: not just this feeling, but rather, what this feeling is of and for

  17. Jonny Ross

      Entertainment flatters and reinforces our preconceptions about the world (i.e., good always triumphs over evil, love conquers all, the universe is just, etc.) while art challenges our preconceptions, breaks them down and forces us to look at the world anew.