ART AND POLITICS
Updated: Aug 12
This is an article “Art and Politics” by Marc Primo Warren
A number of things that have tilted society and how we all live have already happened even though we’re only halfway into 2020. Cases affected by the COVID-19 pandemic continue to rise, the economy is slowly crashing, and riots and protests are currently happening across America. With so much going on around us, art has become one of the most prevalent forms of media that effectively portrays our collective social emotions and themes during the recent months. However, that has always been the case throughout history. It’s just that most of us only sense its importance or appreciate the thoughts behind it when the going gets tough.
To fully understand and grasp the messages that political art offers, we have to immerse ourselves in the current issues of the time. Proper reading is necessary to efficiently extrapolate what political artworks tell us during the period it was made. Based on how artistic hubs in Berlin and New York have thrived over the years featuring a rich political history focusing on these two centres, we can learn via historical articles what is being talked about, what ideas artists wish to convey, and just how the elements of political power and activism collide through art.
Political injustice depicted through art
Most of us already know that art is a reflection of reality and that it can influence our emotions and behavior. However, art has also been used to reflect the many political injustices of men throughout history that triggers a certain resistance in our psyche as we attempt to understand its relevance. German author and poet Hugo Ball’s thoughts on how art gives us the “opportunity for the true perception and criticism of the times we live in” encapsulates it perfectly, proving that art has the power to demonstrate the evils of racism and the greed of privilege on various media-- both being common themes in political art.
With the recent riots sparked by the death of George Floyd recently, we can remember Luke Willis Thompson’s work on “Cemetery of Uniforms and Liveries” which tell us of the impact of murders committed by the police to the victims’ families. Art is so powerful that it engraves thoughts of social injustices in the minds of generations serving as reminders of its darkness and the agony it brings while instilling the hope that they can correct them in their own time. Unfortunately, as many would say, it seems that history is always bound to repeat itself.
Art for political community
When art is used for political campaigns, it also possesses the power to build communities and encourage people to be part of a movement, campaign, or an event. These communities which are anchored on the appreciation of art acquire the potential of being a political collective that can manifest strength not only in numbers, but in influence as well. However, people cannot form collectives without having the right framework and messaging that can justify their activities or agenda. Leaders should first ask themselves who they are, what they are standing up for, and what networks they support. A set of cultural principles must be in place, and so should hierarchies.
With all these in place, coming up with powerful art that unifies communities and serves as a voice that sends one strong message soon follows and offers its social impact. Some good examples of these are artworks for the LGBTQ movement, 2018’s California Proposition 8, and the 2012 protests against SOPA.