Art-dicted!!!

Posted: September 22, 2012 in Uncategorized

A long time back I discovered that not only was art my attraction, but politics too. I was fascinated by art that was controversial, confrontational, and immediate. As a school kid growing up, I had never spent time engaged in cultural activities. My school, and many other public schools I knew around Bochum – outside Polokwane, did not offer any art lessons. However, my fascination with art and politics didn’t stop.

It was Murray’s piece, The Spear, which raised questions in my head about politicians and artists. The positive and most visible thing these days is that art is more successful in capturing the public imagination while at the same time pissing off politicians. Besides the Spear, the recent Ayanda Mabunu’s art work about the president at the AVA Gallery also elicited anger from many people around. Still both art and politics fascinates me, by what they both entails. While artists understand politics, it seems the reverse isn’t true. Politicians understand less about art. If that was the case then Pussy Riot would not have sparked such controversy, Zapiro would not have hopped in and out of the court of justice on so many occasions. I have little trouble seeing the world from both the politician’s and the artist’s viewpoints.

I share my time talking to politicians and artists. While politicians have the power to rule, art has its own unique sway in the world. Because artists possess a free spirit, our work connects us to each other and to ourselves. Some artists and social critics might think that art is useless as a tool for political change. There are many examples where artists employ art in the service of political change. During the Cold War the CIA promoted abstract expressionism.   After 1976 many South African artists responded forcefully in opposition to the apartheid system and government. A wide range of media, including painting, sculpture, photography, drama and graphic design, were used during those protests. Politics is part of the equation, and even Dante and Shakespeare were writing from a political point of view. As an artist, my art does not seek to persuade or convince, but rather to evoke emotions. Through my work I have the potential to influence the behavior of people towards one another in a constructive manner.

I honestly think art is politics but politics isn’t art. Perhaps both need to resist the lazy smugness of self-righteous sniping. As artists, our work expresses outcry, outrage, and witnesses from politics. Politicians should be looking to the arts to encourage participation and rather than to tame us. However, judging by their lack of understanding of art, I’d say politicians should be the last to tell artists that some artwork is disrespectful and should not exist in the public domain. Politicians talk about aspiration as though it was an entirely material phenomenon, but the arts are the embodiment of a different but no less valid or widely shared aspiration too.

Politicians should view art as an essential part of individual expression and not a threat to their power. As an artist I am ambitious and energetic in what I do. Hence I am seeking a like-minded community from the political side in an experimental environment. Art is politics; but we can’t have the reverse unless politicians take time to learn. I see the combined universality and power of art, ensuring the cause for a change amongst individuals and through communities. Either way, I’m Art-dicted!

 

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