In this text I defend the idea that art has a function and that the function of art is political.
I start by asking myself what is art? The various theories that I have found have made me
reach the conclusion that it is pointless to try to define art. It does not matter what art is;
we can decide that. What is important is the value art has for us. Its value depends on how
it is used.
The idea of art for art’s sake and that of artistic production as the reflection of the internal
vision of the artist is relatively new. The function of art since prehistory has predominantly
been that of advertising. Art has been and is consistently used by those
in power as a tool for political propaganda.
With the arrival of photography, the function of art changes. The power, which nowadays
is in the hands of big corporations and states, still uses visual production as a tool for
political propaganda. Yet, the main visual output of our culture today, even though it
is the art of the period, no longer comes from the arts world, but from the mass media,
especially advertising. Art loses its main function but continues to serve those in power in
the form of capitalism’s perfect product.
Each system encourages in people the features that it needs to maintain itself and grow.
The maintenance and strengthening of a system of power normally does not happen
for the benefit of the people that compose it. Despite this, thanks to the technological
advances in communication; today, people have a power of organisation and action that
they have never had before.
The vacuum that art finds itself in is an opportunity for it to redefine itself. Art now has
the opportunity to contribute to the improvement of society as a whole. What we value in
art, its ability to enrich us as people, can now become its aim. It is time for art to commit.
This is the introduction 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: