art as activism

on a bike ride with a new friend last weekend, we got into a discussion about social responsibilities as 'artists.' if we are agents of change in some other way in the world, does that excuse us from the burden of using our art to effect change?if he is developing renewable energy sources and i am working with homeless, can our respective art forms be just for us to do with as we wish? or are we, by mere virtue of being artists who care about social change, beholden to a deeper responsibility to also and always use our artistic endeavors in a socially responsible and response way?

i mean, obviously, self-care and expression are important. if my art making sustains the parts of me that are otherwise outwardly involved, then of course there is some inherent worth in it. but is that enough? or does every artist have inherent responsibility to engage with social, political and environmental issues in a conscious way THROUGH their chosen medium? is the world worse off if we don't? am i worse off if i don't?

as if to clarify or confuse the issue i was already beset by.. i sat down to watch the first few minutes of the new zeitgeist film. it opens with a quote: "in a decaying society, art, if it is truthful, must also reflect decay and unless it wants to break faith with its social function, art must show the world as changeable and help to change it." the quote is by ernst fischer, and though i really haven't delved deep enough into marxism to know how i truly feel about it, the idea that the artist bears the same social burdens as all citizens is poignant.

when there are countless wars, injustices and inexcusable ignorances multiplying across the globe.. can i just make something pretty to please myself? i'm thinking probably not.



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