Victory Without a Battle – Ernest Betts (1928)

When the first minstrel felt joyous he opened his mouth and sang. A great and dreadful moment! He must have looked a sight. When the first artist felt a desire for expression he took dyes and feathers and shells and pretty stones, and with these beautified himself, or some other object.

There was something desperate and divine about it, and the thing had to be done. But suppose he had been given the flint and the woad and the rock and all the implements of his first artistic essay before experiencing the pressure of any creative impulse? These materials would have been meaningless, just as it would have been meaningless to explain what poetry was to Ella Wheeler Wilcox. He would have been unable to use this knowledge in the way he was meant to use it.

The invention of cinematography presents a parallel case in our own time. In the cinematograph we have had a means of expression presented to us before the desire to express, the orchestration before the music, the telescope before the star, with the result that we have known that uncomfortable experience, victory without a battle. The battle is to come, it is upon us. Who will wrest an art from all these machines?

[From the Preface of ‘Heraclitus, or the Future of Films’ by Ernest Betts, 1928]