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Monday, November 2, 2015
The Icy Hand of Politics in the Art World
I've always tried to stay informed on a great many subjects throughout my life. I have a grand passion in particular for politics. Not for arguing politics or even taking specific sides, but just watching the trends and directions that politics take globally.
So it was natural to merge the two together and begin watching how politics effect art and how art can effect politics.
You wouldn't think that art could influence politics to the extent that politics influence art. But it does. Take Shepard Fairey's Hope Poster created for Barrack Obama's first campaign. A single piece of art influenced the votes both for and against President Obama. There are dozens of examples from Banksy's Dismaland to Ai Weiwei's dissident art.
We influence politics constantly. But its often done in such a subtle way that is often overlooked. Alas the opposite is much more noticeable.
There has been a lot of talk this year that the annual Istanbul Biennial has not been doing well. Is this just merely coincidence or is it a direct effect of politics within Turkey and its current slide towards dictatorship? The Moscow Biennale had it budget brutally slashed by the Russian government. So much so that they almost had no show at all this year. Look at the attack on Charlie Hebdo in France last year, or the anti-Semitic graffiti on Anish Kapoor's Versailles sculpture "Dirty Corner". Each and every one of these was about politics influencing art.
So what am I suggesting? Isn't this contrary to what I usually say about getting the politics out of the art?
I suppose what I am saying is that its an inevitability that politics will influence what we do. Many artists steer as far away from politics as they can get. They fear what getting mixed up in politics will do to their reputations as artists.
But I believe that we cannot be afraid to let our art speak. We can't be frightened to take a stand. This doesn't mean to act foolishly or try to be involved in everything you come across. Its important to choose your battles wisely. Choose your battles based on your skills and your voice. But hiding from politics doesn't mean the politics wont influence your work. We will never be free of the taint so lets make the politics work for us.
With recent tensions in India running so high regarding journalists and writers being murdered, writers, artists and creatives all over the world have been coming together to take a stand. This is what we should be doing to make a difference. When we come together as a creative entity we are strong and we can influence change.
We are the ignored influence. "Oh that's just an artist" is the way most politicians look at us. They forget that the trends of history make us the influencers.
So don't be afraid to use your art to influence change. It may be the most important thing you do as an artist. And if you do nothing else, watch the world. See how art changes things. Stay aware of the issues around you and you'll see that we have a much louder voice than people give us credit for. We CAN make the world a better place.
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