Despite the fact that the traditional figure of the artist has personified the power of seeing and making visible, the truth is that most artists through history have seen and have made visible what they have been told to. Western artistic production is in general homogenous, conformist and compliant.
The arts world, after being substituted as the propaganda tool of power, continued to serve the ruling class by the production of luxury goods with an infinite potential for speculation in the market. Today, to commit to the art for art’s sake claim is to politically commit to the maintenance and strengthening of the market economies and to the condemnation of the arts world to irrelevance.
Thanks to technological advances and to the civil rights movements, today in the West, people have more power than ever before. At the same time, never before has the propaganda machinery been so systematically unleashed in order to prevent people from using that power.
As people, artists are trapped in the same contradiction as the rest, living in a society that they recognise as unfair, on which they depend and whose values they have internalised. Generally, as with the rest of people, artists tend to go with the system. Sometimes however, they rebel.
There have always been rebellious artists for whom seeing and making visible what they were told by the power was not enough. In fact, looking at the history of art, the artists that are valued are precisely the ones that did more than just be an instrument.
These rebellious artists generally committed to their ideas and defended them. They worked for their freedom with its associated responsibility. Freedom and responsibility are two concepts that go hand in hand. When we feel social responsibility we commit politically. Political commitment derives from social responsibility.
The artist is part of The art of commitment, my Research Paper for the MA in Fine Art that I did at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in London in 2007.
All the articles in The art of commitment: