Art as Lie Detector

In Spy the Lie, three ex-CIA operatives who administered lie detector tests discuss techniques for determining whether someone is telling the truth. Body cues such as ‘anchor points’ (any part of the body that anchors a person to a particular position) can be non-verbal hints. ‘Attack behaviors’ (when the suspect goes on the offensive against the interviewer) are also suggestive.

Wouldn’t it be appealing to possess such a skill, given our news and media? TV programs like “Lie to Me” (which is directly referenced in the book) and “The Mentalist” (which I inferred) frequently showcase characters with an uncanny ability to gauge if a person is lying — in drama. We’ve all felt unsure of a politician’s veracity, broken promise after broken promise.  We’ve questioned an athlete’s denial during a news interview in the face of wrongdoing. Lance Armstrong, and more recently Ryan Braun, habitually lied to the public regarding their doping scandals. Whether interacting with a loved one, or admiring a public figure from afar, we want the truth.

Artists possess that “spy the lie” skill. They try to get at truth, though their techniques of ‘lie detection’ may vary. Degrees of abstraction or realism are used to render something other than the subject matter. ‘Vital’ information is kept, and the rest discarded. The artist may be trying to get at a deeper truth symbolized by the subject, or at a greater truth within themselves. Waveform Expressionism seeks that truth and vitality by trying to represent the energy of a subject or feeling. As an artist, a person and seeker, how do you find truth?

Spy the Lie by Philip Houston, Michael Floyd, Susan Carnicero, with Don Tennant.
272 pages. St. Martin’s Press, 2012.

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