Art and Politics
There is so much to say on this topic, I can’t begin to do it justice in a short blog post. And there are many people who know much more on the topic than I do. However, especially with the Canadian federal election coming up May 2nd, I think it’s important to touch on the relationship between politics and art.
Street art from Brighton, England
There are many examples of each of the art forms working towards political and social change, commenting on things happening in the political world, or both. For example, Augusto Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed, aimed at causing social change, transforming society and empowering those who are oppressed (read here for more details on his work). Or Bono’s politics through his music and through his work with organizations like One.org that aim to fight extreme poverty through raising public awareness and pressuring political leaders. Billie Holiday made an incredibly powerful statement about the horrors of lynching in Strange Fruit (watch her on YouTube). On a smaller scale, I have many photographs of street art and graffiti from around the world that make some bold political statements. The list of examples can go on and on.
This evening I went to see Andy Bichlbaum from the Yes Men speak at The Royal in Toronto. The Yes Men are a group of activists who infiltrate the world of big business, pose as large corporation or government officials and make satirical statements that present a more ideal world – in turn causing media attention on the big issues and shaming those corporate criminals. Here is the trailer from their film The Yes Men Fix The World (2009):
The evening was organized by ProjectDemocracy.ca and a group of political organizations that are rallying against our current Prime Minister (Stephen Harper) and the Conservatives being elected again. One of these organizations is the Department of Culture, “a growing community of Canadian citizens who are artists, arts professionals and cultural workers concerned about ensuring the social and cultural health and prosperity of our nation in the face of a Federal Government that is aggressively undermining the values that define Canada.” They have a map on their website where you can investigate what political art is going on in Canada by clicking on the city you are interested in. There are a lot of artists around who are speaking out against the political powers in Canada at the moment. I love this little ditty I found on the map, written and performed by John Roby:
As you can probably tell from the rest of this post, I am left wing. But whatever your political beliefs, art is a way to express those beliefs in a powerful, accessible, entertaining way, that allows other people to experience and understand where you are coming from. And potentially change their lives.