…but I was only acting! features a series of single-channel screenings that explore the connections between acting (as in performance) and activism from the lens of humour and irony. On this basis, the artists chosen for the programme represent a kind of transcendence with respect to the social framework in which they create, according to the idea established by radical activist and historian Howard Zinn in his book Artists in Times of War. For Zinn, “the artist thinks, acts, performs music, and writes outside the framework that society has created.” He goes on to clarify that “artists can be sly. They
can point to things that take you outside traditional thinking because you can get away with it in fiction. People say, ‘Oh, well it’s fiction.’ But remember what Pablo Picasso said: ‘Art is a lie that makes us realize truth’." He concludes that “art moves away from reality and invents something that may be ultimately more accurate about the world than what a photograph can depict.”
By drawing on artifice, humour, satire and parody, the pieces in this series use art to establish a dialogue that would not be initiated otherwise, revealing interior worlds that fluctuate between reality and fiction and showing that the art does not need to depend on propaganda to mobilise its public.
The title …but I was only acting! refers to a recurring phrase uttered by Jon Lovitz in a comedy sketch on the television programme Saturday Night Live. Every time he was discovered in a lie, Lovitz’ character would histrionically overact, covering his tracks, by saying theatrically that he “was only acting,” and intentionally lying to show off his superior technique. The artists included in this programme use a wide range of methods to explore a myriad of topics and discourses that at times can only be tackled when one “strikes a pose,” in the words of Madonna’s music video Vogue. By taking on a role or a character, artists are authorised to commit transgressions that allow them to delve into a cultural or social territory that is often more difficult - because of its political, sexual or psychological implications - to debate openly.