Our Political Obligations
What follows is a series of questions I was going to pose to myself, and try to answer, on the podcast, but the more I thought about it, the less good I felt about sharing it on that platform. In fact, it tied me up so much, I didn’t even publish an episode last week (sorry about that if you were banking on hearing my voice for your commute).
I still think these questions need to be posed to the public, but instead of my answering them, or giving you some sort of direction on how you should answer them, I would just like to ask you to think about them for yourself.
Take these thoughts with you and determine if there is something to them that needs to be shared in the work you do. I have no desire to force anyone to express their views, but I do think these are conversations we need to have with ourselves, at the very least.
When it comes to politics, civil liberties, and social awareness, what is our responsibility as artists?
I personally believe that creativity and artistic aptitude are both "muscles" that anyone can make stronger, but it is possible that some may be more naturally creative than others. If that is the case, and we somehow have received more of a gift of creativity, do we have a moral obligation to use that creativity to express our views?
What about the stigma of being seen as political, where you either are or you aren't a protest artist? Can we be both sides of the coin? Is it possible for an artist to create benign work that carries no social impact, but also have the space to make work that has cultural, political, or societal value?
If protest art sells for millions to people who may not be aligned to the values of the art, does it still have an impact? Does the artist lose credibility if their socialist art hangs on the wall of a bonds trader in Manhattan?
What if we make protest art, but nobody pays attention? Do we still participate?
What is our responsibility if we see an artist who is political in one area, but blindly absent in others. For instance, an artist that speaks out on racial issues but finds themselves silent on gender politics?
How can we explore different levels of engagement, from positive reinforcement, to aggressive action? Can we employ both? Can we sit on both sides or in the middle? Are both or either valid or necessary?
What matters more? An engaged audience who believes what you believe, or an open-minded contingent who may not agree with you, but are willing to listen and participate? Does the echo chamber resonate enough to cause action, or if not, then how far out do we need to reach in order to make an impact?
Make what you will of that, and then maybe turn some of it into inspiration for your art… or not.