18 february 2006
Sat, Feb 18 2006 1:14 am
Hi there I have been reading through all the postings so far, there are
lots of interesting things flying around and by way of beginning here
are some responses to no posting in particular but picking up on some
issues. It seems the distinction between art and politics has become
an area of some debate. Both concepts are heavily loaded and I think
touch base with things I've been working through, mainly from the art
side of the divide.
I have been interested to explore the possibilities of art that relate
to things more real, possibly relating to what could be defined as the
political. The problem for me becomes one of definition. These concepts
are not as static as they seem. Mainly the people who like them static
represent conservative interests that need this stability in order to
guarantee their continued profit. We are all in various ways subject to
these definitions and seem to be negotiating the borders in order to
secure different objectives.these objectives themselves open up
questions, does social engagement inherently imply social change? and
according to what interests is this change sought? and in terms of art
what is the role of the ego or career of the artist? Im thinking Bob
geldorf or bono here as two particularly socially engaged poster boys.
anyway the terms of the debate seems to involve many postions and
confusion is real.
My feeling is that confusion comes from treating art, politics, the
social, the cultural, in unproblematic ways. they are concepts which
imply a vast array of related concepts and values that differ from
discipline to discipline and geographic location to location. To assume
too quick a consensus on these concpets is to fall into a series of
traps. There is the trap of parochialism that can come with being
reactionary to perceived cultural political situations whereby the
debate is contained within a very specific location. It is this that I
hear in Ed Young's move to take the political out of social
engagement. It is a move that I read as not having a nuanced and far
reaching conception of the political but rather one that sees
'politics' in an overly simplified way. I don't see such
distinction as useful. Politics affects us all and permeates
everything. The most formal work of art arguably has a political
frame-work and context if not relevance.
A further trap of assuming consensus on such complex issues is one that
comes with border marking. It is to assume narrow conceptions of what
is art and what it is not. It is also to reduce political action to
systems that already exist and prevent a thinking of politics and
activism along broader more creative lines.
The demarcation of separate interests, the removal of politics from
culture comes at the cost of not remembering that the personal is in
fact political or at very least has a political relevance and function.
These distinctions are retrogressive, it is far more challenging and
exciting to rethink these concepts as complex, historically charged and
This debate may in some ways be semantic, and in many ways art seems to
enjoy indulging in semantics always playing with definitions and forms,
while politics seemingly can't afford to entertain this debate in
order to formulate lines of action. these preconceptions are also
retrogressive. politics can benifit from reflection and 'soul
searching' and art can benifit from doing more pragmatically inspite
of (or using) the rhetoric of aesthetics.
The problem of whether art can actually effect change or only provide
aesthetic representation to forms of change is one that looms behind
this all. And as Joseph Gaylard seems to indicate movements in law and
medicine as well as politics and activism proper surely do much more in
terms of concrete measurable change, with out the endless sign play.
Yet even these areas need to think outside of the definitions and
borders that they are often locked within. Surely truly revolutionary
political action not only changes the quality of the border but renders
these borders irrelevant and unworkable? i think a sceptical and wary
approach is needed, but in ways that make transgression happen.
Anyway there is much to discuss, but also much to do...
I studied fine art at uct and am now doing a Masters at the university
of amsterdam and making photographs and videos.