IS ART IMPORTANT? IS ART ALWAYS POLITICAL?
These are loaded questions, and my own opinion a lame request, one that should be answered within the context of culture and society.
From the earliest civilizations, art has been the voice of any culture, politically, religiously and within their geographical influences. The Roman Catholic Church, or the aspirations of the powerful ruling families of the time mostly drove the Italian Renaissance. It is a similar precept in the Age of Enlightenment in Europe, the advent of the modern industrial world, the world wars that took the lives of substantial generations.
So, let’s agree that art is a reflection of cultures, societies and times, as well as our individual responses to such. Was Nazi propaganda any different? It was after all art supporting a particular political system, wrongly as history would clearly tell us in hindsight.
Our individual responses as artists fit into two scenarios, the first supporting an individual society, politics and culture of a particular place and time, and the second as a voice of reason when such times become negative or nefarious as we see it, as individuals and culture. Artists are the reasonable voice that can expose, reveal and provoke reflections within a wider audience, often with a quiet voice that surpasses street demonstrations and other popular uprisings.
As artists, if we choose that complex and often understood path, we have the immense responsibility to do these hard things, beyond our individual choices and use our voices to express what we see, understand, accept and feel, positive or negative about where and when we live and what we comprehend about our own societies and cultures.
The very moment that you create visual art, photography, or even through many other forms, you express your opinion even if you are not fully aware of that declaration. A wonderful landscape will lead to an environmental position of some aspect; a street image will surely become a social statement; a derelict urban landscape as position on out of control economics; a politically or faith charged images will surely leads to the same. You, as an artist cannot escape the fact that you are expressing your views through your images. Instead of skirting the issue, you should embrace it and make your position clear, again in your own quiet voice. It is what you do, and should do.
We can then perhaps agree that all forms of art are indeed political by nature, all derived from our own culture, experiences and where and how we live. We should also be cognoscente that art is the ultimate canary in the mine, the voice that warns of excesses, impeding doom, and extremism in all forms.