UK ultra-fan Adrian Burns was beavering away on researching the correct latin for our new corporate slogan, "Art is forever, the audience comes and goes." He reported: "Through some fluke, the only text book I still have from school is my Latin dictionary. Audientia: 'hearing, audience.' Celebratio: 'crowd, festival.' This is not sufficient as nuance, of course, is everything. So, I've impertinently emailed a Professor of Latin for an answer.
"Examining the responses from four professors, the following seem to cover the notion of the duration of art, the temporariness of the audience. For the caveats (you knew there'd be some) see their responses below, particularly re 'audientes' and 'brevis/breves'."
Bruce Gibson, Professor Of Latin, School Of Archaeology, Classics And Egyptology, Liverpool University:
The basic phrase is 'ars longa, vita brevis': so, if you want to get the idea of audience in, you could perhaps say, 'ars longa, audientes [= 'those hearing', literally] perituri [= 'about to perish, soon to perish']. Or, for euphony of phrasing, you could try 'ars perennis, audientes perituri' [= 'art is eternal, those who hear are soon to perish'].
Robert Maltby, Professor Of Latin Philology At Leeds University:
The Latin for audience in your sense is spectatores (at a theatre), or legentes (of a book) or audientes (of an oral performance). Audientia is used in the sense "meeting with" that you do not want. celebratio is a group of people attending a festival or religious ceremony. As Latin is more concrete than English, referring to the people (plural) listening or watching, the use of brevis (which with people means "of short stature" will not work. I hope this is of some help.
Peter Toohey, Professor And Head Of The Department Of Greek And Roman Studies At The University Of Calgary:
The problem in this one is that Latin doesn't have a word for audience.
Audientes = "those listening" (and needs "breves" to agree). "Brevis". The way you have it could easily be understood as "short" (in height). I'm not quite sure that you can say what you want to say in Latin along these lines (preserving the long-short alternation). You need an adjective such as "fickle" (=levis) to go with audience.
Q. Could it at a push be given as 'audientes leves'?
PT. You could, but there's no word play long-short/longa-brevis.
James Diggle, Professor Of Greek And Latin, Queens College, Cambridge University:
The problem is not just that audientes is plural, brevis singular, but that brevis suits only an abstract noun, not a personal one. So if you want to keep 'short', as a contrast to long, you will need something like 'spectaculum breve' ('the performance is short-lived)'--as long as the audience you have in mind is one that sees rather than just hears. If you want a personal noun, 'auditor' (or 'spectator'), singular, would be neater than a plural (and the noun better than a participle, such as 'audientes' is). But then you would need an adjective: e.g. 'auditor/ spectator fugax' ('transitory').
Q. Could 'spectator', with an accompanying change to 'fugax', be made plural at a push? Spectatores....?
JD. Plural would be fine. In that case 'spectatores' (or 'auditores') fugaces'.
"So the viable translations are relatively literal:
Ars longa, audientes perituri (art is long lived, those listening soon perish)
Ars perennis, audientes perituri (art is eternal, those who hear soon perish)
Ars longa, spectatores fugaces (art is long lived, the audience transitory)
Ars longa, audientes leves (art is long lived, those listening are fickle).
"Given you are coining a phrase, I think 'audientes' could stand for audience. 'Fugaces' and 'leves' would be interchangeable in the last two phrases. What's nice about 'fugax' is it contains the meaning 'runaway'. The precise Latin difference between spectatores and audientes is the former emphasises watching while the latter stresses listening. But, after all, the engagement of the rock band's audience hinges on listening (though given my experience of gig going in recent years, it seems an opportunity for some simply to yap all the way through the performance). For non-Latin speakers 'spectatores' should still be easily understood. Do you think the spectator aspect also has an echo of passivity in contrast to the artist? In terms of the adjective, I prefer 'fugaces'. Perhaps it is only in my head, but it somehow rings more derisively."
Danish fan Ivar Bergset emailed:
I have for the last year or so spent some of my time and a portion of my intellectual capacity (not much left then) on your new corporate slogan. I think I understand the meaning (or intention) of this phrase - but I would like to question (or at least discuss) its validity.
The part of it saying that an audience will at some time be gone is mostly fine with me (I do not believe in the after life). Then to the part promising that art is forever. It would be nice to believe in such, in particular for an artist, but is it true? In my opinion "art" is in fact stored as some sort of experience in the heads of those listening (or viewing, or whatever). And of course in the head(s) of the artist(s). So when both parties involved are gone - the "experience"; is also gone. For many types of art it is however possible to store the experience/performance/or whatever in some sort of storage medium. Today some of the oldest stored art is that on stone paintings or stone carvings. This enables us to re-experience the art over many generations - and does to some extent support the phrase that art is forever. But for sure(?) I believe that at some time these carvings will also be gone. And so will it be for all known storage mediums? The world will change and all things known today will eventually be lost...
In fact it would be possible to argue that it is more likely that there will be an audience in the future than that a particular piece of art will last to be viewed or experienced by the future spectators? If Mankind continues to populate this (or other planets), Man may very well last longer than the art - and the slogan could be reversed:
There may be an audience even when the art is gone.
On the other hand, if we see art as a general thing (not linked to a specific piece of performance) - it is probable that as long as Man lives and thinks, there will be art along his side. Then art and spectators actually exist in some sort of mutual symbiosis - and this I think is a very nice picture...
I think you misunderstand the slogan. The meaning is thus:
An audience pursues its own course. An artist pursues his own course. Sometimes (often) these are diverging courses. From the artist's POV an audience is fickle, its focus blinkered, impatient and intolerant. An artist who doesn't believe in his own course above all other considerations is not worth diddly-squat. The right course, the narrow road, must be pursued. In 50 years the Beatles will be a minor footnote in pop history, Don Van Vliet will be a chapter. Art does stand the test of time. Screw the audience. They come and go. Who cares? The only important thing is pursuit of the right course. The only artistic role that an audience fills is that of... oh, I can't come up with a clever phrase... it amounts to this: You work on an album everyday (it seems) for a year. You never HEAR it until you play it for a third party and then within moments of starting the playback, in an instant, you are aware of all its strengths and weaknesses. You HEAR it. That moment has nothing to do with whether or not the third party listener, the audience, likes it or not. It is the simple presence of an audience that establishes the proper perspective. Space, a requisite for Scale, is established by the existence of 3 points of reference. There is an analog in sub-atomic physics that's well-known and seemingly well-established, that the process of observation itself changes the behaviour of certain particles.
Back to the Top