"To be truly radical is to make hope possible, rather than despair convincing." - Raymond Williams

Untitled, 2010

by Shaun Chamberlin on December 21st, 2011

“Untitled, 2010” was written by artist Maria Elvorith for The Future We Deserve, a book project about collaboratively creating the future we deserve, set for publication in January 2012.

David Buckland, text Amy Balkin, ‘Going to hell on a handcart.’, Ice Art.
David Buckland, text Amy Balkin, ‘Going to hell on a handcart.’, Ice Art

“The war that matters is the war against the imagination, all other wars are subsumed in it.” ~ Diane Di Prima

With each day we move towards a necessary revolution. Resource depletion, mass species extinction and the risk of runaway climate change highlight the great flaws in our current worldview and the society it has built. It is in this nebulous inner realm of intuition and story that a revolution quietly gathers strength.

And it is in this realm that art has a unique power. Its intrinsic nature allows it not only to powerfully mirror ‘the now’, but to inspire and demonstrate a vision of where we can go from here.

However, if society is not engaged with these pressing issues or actively debating the absurdity of the current system, then most artists won’t be either. It has taken a painfully long time for the predominant western civilisation to begin to acknowledge the devastating consequences of its current systems. Perhaps then it is no wonder that a lot of the artwork produced in the 21st century comments on excess, commoditisation, self-immortalisation and isolation.

Artists are a part of society, and once they are aware of or involved in a debate, they will inevitably create works that communicate this understanding, whether through content, creation or presentation. But to ask an artist to respond to something that they have little or no understanding of – or interest in – invariably produces work which is contrived and short lived.

Pablo Picasso, ‘Guernica’, Oil on canvas, 1937.
Pablo Picasso, ‘Guernica’, Oil on canvas, 1937

The greatest and most striking artworks tend to emerge instead from the expression of a tension within the artist, usually without a planned agenda. Take for example Picasso’s Guernica[1], painted almost immediately after the devastating casual bombing of the town of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War and famous for its depiction of the horrors of war. When asked to explain the symbolical references in the painting, Picasso would often refuse:

“…this bull is a bull and this horse is a horse… If you give a meaning to certain things in my paintings it may be very true, but it is not my idea to give this meaning. What ideas and conclusions you have got I obtained too, but instinctively, unconsciously. I make the painting for the painting. I paint the objects for what they are.” [2]

And herein lies our Catch-22. The urgency with which we need to respond to these issues calls for the inspiration that artists carry with them, which could help to move the debate forward into actualisation. Dr. Gerald Bast describes this well:

“The true beauty of art lies in its ability to move us intellectually, motivate us to follow new paths, shape awareness and character, demonstrate interconnectedness and teach us to employ all the things that surround us in a conscious manner. The achievement of social effectiveness can neither be the aim or the purpose of art. Nonetheless art has a social influence, either in the sense of change, or in the spirit of affirmation and conservation.” [3]

Yet unless artists themselves are genuinely intimately involved in the exploration, and can escape from the commoditisation of the arts sufficiently to find their true voice, then the need for their distinctive contribution may go unmet.

In a sense, the future we deserve is inevitable – we will reap what we sow. But if artists can be released from their bind, then their ability to unite our hearts, minds and imagination could catalyse the creation of a future we all hope for.


References
[1] http://www.pablopicasso.org/guernica.jsp
[2] http://www.pbs.org/treasuresoftheworld/a_nav/guernica_nav/gnav_level_1/5meaning_guerfrm.html
[3] U-n-f-o-l-d: A cultural response to climate change, exhibition catalogue, 2010, Springer-Verlag/Wein

  1.  Roger says:
    29 March, 2012 at 6:37 pm

    … the few who abuse the many through the proceduralised system we call ‘civilisation’ , they know fairly exactly how many folks will revolt to every removal of ‘civil rights’ as we head now downhill toward breakdown of the system after finally one international banker owns the world by law and controls the one world army, one world religion… but few know how to ‘live’ without the system of systematic abuse of mankind by man-un-kind … the evil is covert , but over half the world is owned by one man already , set far more quickly to own the rest, but hardly worth owning since it is condemned to death by the acts of the many from following the system… so many ways we have destroyed all hope of a future for mankind in this earth, mercifully the end will be swift …
    and then men will see what man really is , because if we were what most believe we are from listening only to men who do not know any longer , then no-one would survive what we have almost all done… following the evil and saying we do not like it but don’t know any better, lies to ourselves all our lives…
    Nay, but we KNOW we have spirit and love… we understand, but do not integrate it , so most deny it in action and so it is dead… but action is not revolution or evolution, it is simply preparation , which no-one can undertake until they know what it is we are preparing for… without this knowledge mankind is blind , disenfranchised, vain, seeks escapism or revolt or acceptance of fate…
    the few get on with love who know, they are content to serve the poor this world creates and then rejects [but are overwhelmed with how many the many do not care about as they scrabble over one another to amuse the few who con them with the greatest scam known to man, virtual money with no value behind it inducing ever-increasing unrepayable debt of all to a few…. the engine of the system, unbelievable evil set in international and national law , enforced by paying people to enslave people by force of police, army, civil ‘servants’ and ‘governments’ who no longer serve any but their money-masters…

    IF we all changed to loving one another , even ‘they’ would be happy in the plenty this earth can and indeed does supply despite that we are killing it’s life force systematically…. we are just so inefficient that 50,000 a DAY starve in abject poverty , misery …
    we KNOW better , and we know there are consequences to our evil against one another , our unlovingness as acquired default between folks…the NORM … divided … conquered …
    and yet even in this seemingly hopeless state , knowing where we are headed in snowball fashion, out of control, we do not see the answer within every one of us that was there from childhood, we live in acquired denial of our love for one another …
    we deny that ‘endlessness’ somehow created these bodies that begin and end, we deny that it can do so again , even endlessly timelessly ‘create’ new worlds of space-time or whatever… how can we do so when we ‘know’ love that shows us the ‘oneness’ from which we come, on which we depend, to which we all aim, however distracted by that which ends…
    the answer is not revolution although many will revolt and die … revolution does not solve the problem which is that we have denied love , we could all open our hearts, minds, conscience, souls, and become whole again , like little children who have capacity to innocently choose freely to love [or follow their parents who mostly have only denial, enough to destroy a world]

    2 Peter 3:13 Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.

    Isaiah 65:17 For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind.

    How it comes about was written down as soon as men could write, we have known that long that we shall destroy ourselves and our only hope of loving life is another universe which iskick-started with the few who loved in this life… but the only way there is our spirit and eventually the only way away from life [even life of love in teh new earth ] is the spirit of love which frees us to endless creation because to love is to be ONE [beyond that which ends, but endlessly creating that which begins and ends]
    so inevitably endlessness finds the way to communicate this to the creation … that is what love is …

    1 John 4:8 He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.

    1 John 4:16 he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.

    the words hardly matter since they are words of things of the world THAT ENDS , what matters is to know love and see that it is not love until it is given freely to all without expectation, judgement, trade, price, …
    in love buried deep in most is the only hope there is beyond this world that is ending, and eventually beyond the next world, kingdom of the God of love come … to all .. but there is a third heaven and no third earth… that is freedom of the spirit from life [and death it is already free of by ‘ nature ‘ of being of endlessness, not of creation …

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