1. The Role of Art in Society
Must art be concerned with social problems?
To demand social or political reactivity from art may be asking too much.
Art in our times is usually called upon to compensate us for the unbearableness of reality,
a substitute for lost pleasures and the medial promise of imagined fulfillment.
Opium for the people, but not for everyone.
In the modern art world, art is enjoyed as a collusive luxury, the sacred hybrid flowers of the white cube, the fin de siècle excrescence of a remote art world.
Art as the
sycophantic parasite of the wealthy cannot unfold its game, its potential to break through the miasma of obtuseness that blinds us.
Should art be reduced to distraction, entertainment,
like a Hollywood movie, the galleries resembling low budget theme parks? McArt?
We are looking to art to help us see our situation
more clearly, not to obfuscate it. We are looking to art to help us find new ways to interpret and transform reality.
2. Street Art and Public Space
Street art seemed to be a viable alternative to
private art, however this
attempt of artists to escape the tyranny of the art market and to reclaim
public space has been countered with devastating force by the police.
Street artists are subject to criminalization and extreme jail sentences (Posterboy is presently serving 11 months).
New York is practically expunged of what used to be one of its trademarks, top-quality artistic work in public space.
Why are the regulations for graffiti enforced so vehemently whereas littering and idling are not?
The selling of public space is a huge business that our tax money is used to defend.
The right of commercial business to invade our field of vision with their advertising is sovereign.
This right is challenged by street artists and by a movement called culture jamming, which is also subject to persecution.
3. Art and Advertising
Throughout history, civilizations have relied on visual art to convey and spread their ideas, often producing art of timeless quality.
Unfortunately in modern society, advertising has taken
over the two-dimensional surface and harnessed art’s
mind-shaping potential for commercial purposes.
The damage to human thinking has been inevitable,
using this powerful medium to instil brands or consumer behaviour in people’s brains. The result is a population who think in brand names. They define themselves as consumers.
The education of free-thinking individuals goes beyond the freedom of choice of which brand to buy, beyond the “educated consumer”.
Freedom of thought is the ability to associate between many pieces of information in your brain,
but it is only possible when these things are there to connect. The more knowledge, the more freedom.
Freedom of speech without freedom of thought is not an option.
The difference between art and advertising is art is
not in the service of a commercial product.
Art is in the service of a deeper understanding of life.
4. The Power of Art
Visual art is a high-power medium.
It attacks the optical nerve at the speed of light,
bombarding the brain with images that become deeply imbedded in the subconscious
with long term effects on the receptor’s thinking.
It is a gut medium, appealing to the pre-language part
of the brain. You feel a picture without being able to explain it.
Your description of your dream the next morning may
seem pale compared to the wild intensity of the dream which language barely
That is the power of a picture.
Destroy the Pharaoh’s image and you destroy his power.
Thou shalt not make a picture of
the Lord, the picture may become more powerful than the idea and we will have
idolatry, or even American Idol.
Once the political power of imagery is recognized, it
becomes understandable why there is a tight control on public art, and why radical art is outlawed.
The power of art to present new ideas and to introduce a new way of seeing things makes art predestined to be a means of changing people’s thinking.
5. Art and Money
Art must be free from monetary interests.
An artist that is trying to conform to the market or
appeal to some specific audience will not have the freedom she needs to speak the unspeakable.
Art must be separated from material aspirations in order to applicate its consciousness-changing attributes.
Art in the service of financial gain defeats its purpose. Art in the service of business is only a smokescreen for corporate interests.
So if big business is not to have a future role in sponsoring art, who will?
Art that is subsidized by the government is just as prone to be ingratiating to its
So must radical artists live on the edge of starvation?
The solution can be found in the form of a few radical-minded galleries that are willing to give art its freedom, and to support artists in creating an art form that offers more than just a respite from everyday life, that opens new channels of thought and enables new insights into the future of our society.