Whereas in civilized living among enlightened individuals, deception indicates knowing falsehood, and thus an unstated admission of intrinsic wrongness; in the arts, it is a virtue.
But only if the artist’s intention — the meaning of his work — is constructive. In other words, the ideas must be right if the seeming falsehood of their presentation is to be made honorable and true.
Works which deceive for propagandistic purposes are mendacious in a destructive way: destructive of our ability to appreciate Beauty, and thus to enrich our lives. We see in this country a vast body of such work in all the arts. I’m reminded of my life in China in the 1980s, when overwhelming political forces and their adherents hogtied the arts. (The iron curtain countries as well.) We in this country experience something similar, although we don’t suffer the deprivation of liberty or property those dissidents endured.
But the tide has turned. I see enough young people (and some my age, too) looking for something better. How about the last 500 years of Western aesthetic tradition for inspiration?
Deception — intentional unreality — in the forum intended for it, in the right spirit, is paradoxically the vehicle for truth. So, we reorient in the direction in which we need to go once again.