‘We live in an age of escalating violence. Art teaches us to listen, to see, to wait for understanding’
As the world reels from wars in Ukraine and the Middle East, and we face a global climate catastrophe, how should artists and cultural organisations respond?
May you not live in interesting times, goes an apocryphal Chinese prayer. The implication is that interesting times are also dangerous ones. There is no denying the volatility of the world right now. There is war in Ukraine and deadly conflict in the Middle East. Surrounding it all is the ultimate existential threat of global climate catastrophe.
Some artists believe that art is only valid when it is political. Others feel that their work, such as it is, constitutes their response to life
The question is, how should artists and cultural organisations respond to world crisis? There can be no absolute rule on this. Some artists believe that art is only valid when it is political. Others feel that their work, such as it is, constitutes their response to life. Many artists feel that politics is inappropriate in the world of art. Artists cannot be prescribed for.
But world events have a way of making unengaged art somehow irrelevant and even reactionary. An artist in the Germany of the Third Reich would have found that politics had moved permanently into the air they breathed. To be above politics then would in effect have been sanctioning the horrors going on around you. There is a limit to the pose of artistic neutrality.