DURGNAT: Brigid Brophy said that fundamentally a novel is a take-over bid for one’s ego, and that’s probably true for any work of art. Having an artist’s mind take over one’s own mind in a way that enriches it instead of obliterating it. So temporarily, for an hour and a half, I can become more like Dreyer or more like Minnelli or more like anybody than I could be any other way. The mere effort of adaptation seems to me to be a valuable spiritual exercise; even coming to understand a Fascist mind, for example, via Leni Riefenstahl. In a sense, artists are the priests of alternative minds, that is, of communication. Some artists are so rich one endlessly finds more in them. Or one finds them congenial, like old friends. Others one respects rather than likes. There are works of art which one knows are pretty simple-minded, but a sort of temporary regression is probably good for the soul, in small doses, and provided one doesn’t lower one’s standards about the nature of reality and the value of its reflection in art. [...] It’s in the nature of art to involve criticism, whether moral or social or whatever, because it’s in the nature of things to keep going wrong. That’s not a pessimistic view. Society isn’t one of those machines that can run itself. You seem to find my position confusing, but it’s very simple. I just want to be put inside an interesting mind which is as different as I can bear from my own for two hours. And then come back to being myself by thinking about it. But this implies a variety of response, and why I’m difficult to place is because I appreciate anything that is different and honest; and only in the second place do I ask, ‘Is it of a long term validity? Will I want to keep coming back to it?’
26 August 2011
"The Priests of Alternative Minds"
From an interview conducted in 1977 by UCLA Ph.D. students with Raymond Durgnat, published in 2006 by Rouge: