I loved talking with my February 2020 Artifice Podcast guests about the wiggly nature of authenticity. It’s easy to assume that there is some finite, fixed truth about who you are in a moment—about who you are over time—but the more I consider this topic, the clearer it seems that authenticity is ever-changing. Each of my February guests brought a unique perspective on this subject.
February 2020 Featured:
- Julie Barnson, Story Teller (February 11, Ep. 45)
- Jay Whittaker, Comedian (February 18, Ep. 46)
- Madazon Can-Can, Clown+Performing Artist (February 25, Ep. 47)
Julie talked about how storytelling allows her to explore different parts/versions of herself, as she takes on varied characters. Specifically, we reflected on age and time. For example, playing an older character can help you get in touch with the person you may become as you age. I love the idea that this kind of imagination-exercise may allow you to prepare to step authentically into new roles, new phases of life.
I can specifically remember being a child and loving to sing Broadway songs played by much older characters—maybe even mothers. I loved stepping into my imagination to explore what feelings I might someday have, as a grown woman. And I’ve felt myself actually assuming those feelings as I have left my childhood and teen years. In retrospect, it feels like I was almost practicing. I was trying on different types of adult personas. Even as a child, I had a fairly strong idea about the kind of woman I wanted to become. And I HAVE become that kind of woman.
I loved hearing Julie remark on the joy of stepping back (via storytelling) into the ingénue she used to be, and still is, truly. Or even stepping into an inner child. And then, of course, she mentioned the interest she has begun to have in the archetypal crone. What sorts of feelings might she be having?
It seems clear to me that past versions of ourselves remain somewhere inside, and retain a percentage of authenticity. We can still feel the passions and pains of our past selves. On the other hand, the selves of even our recent pasts can seem awkwardly inauthentic and ill-fitting, as our perspectives shift, as our experiences vary, as our frontal lobes develop, as our hormones do what hormones do.
So then, isn’t there an implication that our current selves are sort of automatically inauthentic to our future selves?
Of course, time is just one way to think about this…
Jay offered another perspective. We talked about all of the different emotions we feel—all true. And how, as creatives, we sometimes package a certain feeling into a tangible (or, at least, archive-able) piece of work, that can FEEL like a complete representation of the artist.
Specifically, Jay finds that he may have multiple feelings about a particular experience, but that those feelings might get divided up per creative medium. Painting is where anger might go. Music is where processing happens. And comedy (writing) is the light-hearted feelings all extracted from what may—in whole reality—have been a fairly serious experience.
In a way, one could posit that any ONE of Jay’s creative works is inauthentic, for not having captured the whole. Personally, I never think anything is that simple! I feel like this is what my “Artifice” questions are all about! I’m so fascinated by the unseen. And I think this idea is a stunning example of where a type of “artifice” might live between art and artist.
But, it only looks that way when a consumer/listener/viewer is trying to connect a line between one piece/medium and the artist. The authenticity may exist in the whole in a way it doesn’t in a piece.
Can the fracturing of an authentic experience render its pieces inauthentic?
There’s maybe NO person more qualified to talk about authenticity’s fluidity than Madazon Can-Can.
A few days after our interview, Madazon posted the following on their facebook page, and I got SO excited (and asked permission to share, of course):
“There are many dualities that exist within me simultaneously.
-Fierce Fuxxer/Timid Temptress
Flying is just a fancy form of falling really and all the feathers in the world can’t hide that I have the heart of a fool no matter what I’m wearing. 😉
I love to showcase these various things on stage to remind the audience that yes…you CAN do it, too. I hate striving to be perfect on a platform that was meant to invite others in. Vulnerability is the key to my work and it will always continue to be this way.”
I can’t imagine a more beautiful summary.
As you all know by now, I’m totally obsessed with Masks/Masking, and had been SO eager to find a professional clown to interview.
Madazon shared with me the idea that clowns are honesty embodied. They can’t be anything else. But the clowns are not Madazon. They are “a completely egoless creation.” I love this idea that Madazon’s creative medium (one of their creative mediums) is fully authentic, fully honest, fully transparent…but not at all authentic specifically to Madazon.
We also talked about the odd and disorienting phenomenon of telling someone “this is who I am,” and having that person disagree. I’ve experienced this many times throughout my life. It’s a devastating and deeply confusing happening.
In my experience, if you’re told often enough that you aren’t who you say you are, you might really begin to struggle with what is real, what is actually authentic. And you may start to evolve two (or more) concurrently authentic selves, even if one of these selves is maybe ultimately better-suited than the other. There may be one self to match what is reflected toward, and put upon you…and one self that’s potentially a bit hidden. You might live in the shape of the presentation-self for years, maybe decades! It might start to be the only self you know. And when you begin to wake up the other self, it might feel very strange.
People might tell you again, all these years later, that THIS self is the lie. When really…is either?
UGHHH! I could talk about this forever. I would love to know what you think. In what other ways have you found authenticity to be fixed?
Share your ideas in the comments and JOIN THE MAILING LIST for a monthly deep-dive into art philosophy AND the LOVELY virtual gift basket I designed for all new members of this little group. It has all of my favorite goodies…
Once it arrives in your inbox, don’t forget to reach out and tell me about yourself. I’m excited to meet you!