Art still has its force in the power play of global politics today

One of the cornerstones of democracy is the free exchange of information.  Citizens without access to the facts cannot truly participate in free elections.  Non-democratic governments frequently deny their people information by limiting the press and the Internet to ensure that their citizenry cannot make informed opinions that might threaten the regime. When faced with government-controlled media and frequently enforced laws regarding dissent of the state, artistic expression is one way that citizens can spread information and change hearts and minds, both at home and abroad.  For this reason, art has been used as a political tool for as long as history has been recorded.  From Machiavelli to Os Mutantes, Joe Sacco to Jonathan Swift, Picasso to Public Enemy, Frauke Eigen to Frederick Varley, artists have boldly spoken about the truth of their political and social lives in order that others might gain insight about the problems they are facing.  This trend is continuing with the work of pioneering artists in the Middle East.  An article for Christian Science Monitor highlights some of these artists that are using the political turmoil of the region as inspiration for powerful self-expression.  Artists like Nermine Hammam, with a show currently open in London, manipulate images to seek a greater truth in a situation that has been overanalyzed and emotionally neutered.  Others, like all-female photography collective Rawiya, create an emotional connection to their subjects, enabling the viewer to see them as humans rather than theoretical and imagined Other.  These artists, in addition to creating beautiful and compelling works, are also adding much to the political discourse of the region, despite the inherent risks in doing so in a politically instable and often dangerous world.  With the Western world grappling with reduced arts funding and an art world that has been accused of pretentious superficiality, politically active artists should be celebrated as honoring the long-held relationship between art and politics.

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One response to “Art still has its force in the power play of global politics today

  1. Art is an interesting lens through which to view politics and power. You captured its best assets. I would suggest paragraphs after “abroad.” and ‘Middle East.” In the last sentence you introduce a new idea about reduced funding and pretentious superficiality which, while true, pulls you away from the Middle East artists and makes it about the Western world. I would end with the focus on the Middle East artists.

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