What would Picasso say?

“We all know that Art is not truth. Art is a lie that makes us realize the truth, at least the truth that is given to us to understand.” – Pablo Picasso

It is deplorable that Mike Daisey positioned his artistic interpretation as the truth. He pulled information from many sources and pretended it was a firsthand account. He meshed together and dramatized all the components of his alleged experience. Worst of all, he lied to the producers of This American Life and the rest of the world.

Daisey did not uphold the journalistic standard that was required and in turn he mislead the listeners. This is unethical no matter what his intentions were. I understand that he wanted to raise awareness about a situation he believes in unfair but by doing so through deception he invalidated all of this claims.

The Pablo Picasso quote above helped me to understand the interplay between art and truth. While it is entirely ethical for artists to use their creative works to comment on the world surrounding them and to convey truths, it must be fairly deemed art. Art is up to interpretation. Art is subjective. Art is a way to make sense of complicated things. Journalism, while it can be “artistic” in its style, is not art. Journalism is bound to a strict standard that must be upheld to maintain the expected quality of information that will shape the public opinion. Daisey violated this standard when he positioned his art as journalism.


Guernica, 1937, Picasso


8 responses to “What would Picasso say?

  1. I really like your Picasso quote and how you relate art and truth. This brings up a really good point that not everyone thinks of right away. I think that by classifying Daisey’s monologue as art justifies his actions and intentions. I wish he had done this from the beginning and was honest with everyone involved. If, however, he did this, would people take him seriously or even listen to his work at all? Is that a potential good enough reason to stretch the meaning of art and classify his monologue as a journalism piece?


  2. I like that you made a clear distinction between art and journalism, particularly when you said, “Art is subjective. Journalism is bound to a strict standard…” Daisey, known as an actor and performer, is not a journalist. When he traveled to Hong Kong and then Shenzhen he did so to gather information for his performance, not for a journalistic article. It is a shame that he presented his story on This American Life as a journalist because he clearly violated the standard set by generations of journalists before and the standard expected by Ira Glass.


  3. I think that your use of Picasso’s quote is an extremely unique way of shedding light on the relationship between art and truth. In my opinion there is no better way to display the connection between these two than to cite one of the most famous artists in history. I agree that what Daisey did “journalistically” was unethical. Because he was not referring to his presentation as a play or art like he did afterwards, he was immoral for falsifying information of his own experience. In addition I find your point about how his deception invalidated his claims interesting because it is something that I felt after hearing the truth about Daisey. After hearing the truth I lost a great amount of the motivation I initially had towards this issue, as instead I began to question what parts (if any) of Daisey’s original presentation were true.


  4. I completely agree with your response to Daisey’s deception. I think it was undeniably unethical of him to frame his work of art as a work of theater. I also think you bring up an important point about whether or not there is room for art in journalism or truth. There is certainly a lot of gray area, and we see the direct repercussions of that in the Daisey controversy. Artists of course has the right to express an idea or opinion through their creative media, and the audience of that artwork similarly have a right to extrapolate their own response to and interpretation of it. This subjectivity is one of the most fundamental parts of art. In the end I think it comes down to context. I think that while journalism can be art, art cannot be journalism. Beautiful, expressive storytelling that causes the audience to form feelings and opinions is a shared quality of art and journalism. However, communication fact and truth is not. I think that if Daisey’s monologue had been factually correct, it could have qualified as both a work of art and a work of journalism. But since he took creative liberties at the expense of facts, it qualifies solely as the former and not as the latter. Therefore, his framing of this piece of art as a piece of journalism was inaccurate and unethical.


  5. I thought your use of this quote here was very strong and even helped me to better understand the distinction between art and journalism. While Daisey could not have preformed his artistic play on TAL having posed it correctly as art, I still think that it would have been an effective way to lead people to the truth.


    • “Guernica” was painted in response to the bombing of the Spanish village, Guernica, during the Spanish Civil War. It is widely recognized as an anti-war symbol. On a more fundamental level, I believe the painting represents chaos and confusion resulting from a deteriorating social structure. My point was to highlight the chaos and confusion that resulted when Daisey ignored the separation of art and journalism.


  6. Pingback: Journalism vs. Art…but here are the real winners | Stakeholderdoce·

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