Undoing 'the folded lie': media, art and ethics

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In his poem ‘September 1 1939’, W H Auden writes ‘All I have is a voice/To undo the folded lie/…the lie of Authority’ (Auden 203: 125-8). The poem is perhaps not his best, being loaded with adjectives and bordering on sentiment, but at its core is a howl against ‘The windiest militant trash/Important Persons shout,’ and the numbing of selves under the weight of everyday politics and geopolitics and economic politics and all the mess that constitutes contemporary life. New Zealand artist Lorraine Webb suggests, in a personal communication I had with her, that ‘Today, Auden’s “folded lie” is more like the moving half truth, the screen lie, and all we want is artists who use their work to talk about the lie of war; not to create a new propaganda, but to unearth the complexities of our common humanity.’ In this paper I want to address the issue towards which she gestures: the relationship between art and the mass media, and the ethical dimensions available to artists.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49-58
Number of pages10
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2005


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