If Art Doesn’t Make Politics, Who Else?
Have you ever wondered when socio-political satire has been around? The first caricatures were carved in stone or pinned on papyrus: even from antiquity, representations are known that took on public figures and personal enemies. For at least as long now, monumental buildings and sculptures have demonstrated the power of ruling castes, whether clerics or politicians. So commissioned art and resistance art have always existed, propaganda and socio-political opinion have always been part of the artistic work.
However, the question of whether art should and should be political at all is just as old as political art.
Artists Remain Compliant Within Their Environment
One document curator asked “If art doesn’t make politics, who else?” to his art students in the summer. The world’s largest exhibition series for contemporary art is also often political. In Germany, the freedom of art is enshrined in the Basic Law; Article 5(3) and is even one of the most protected fundamental rights in Germany, unlike some other countries. A curator and lecturer in creative management said “Apolitical art is boring,”. “Sensual art does not rub, political art has potential for more depth.”
In some countries, cultural workers are also subjected to constraints. These are above all financial – independent houses are free in their artistic activities, but they have to finance themselves either through the public, sponsors or other subsidies. Public cultural institutions are exempt from this direct pressure to make money, as they are financed from the budgets of the Länder and municipalities. But these also have an indirect influence on art, Markus Kiesel explained, a musicologist and cultural manager. Not only that they usually decide on the appointment of directors. “The Länder and municipalities also have the right to give a cultural commission, for example to an artistic director or to a museum. It could say, for example, that the institution in question must generate a certain amount of revenue. Even here, freedom of art would be limited, because the economic plan now has an influence on artistic design.”
In the past years, political pressure to justify public art and cultural institutions have also increased. Again and again, the question is raised as to how much budget should be spent on the financing of high culture, as it reaches only a small part of the population. According to the theatre director and chairman of the state association, the focus for cultural professionals is therefore often no longer on the question of which socio-political topics should be dealt with, but on how to attract which population group to the opera house.
That is why there is no real free-thinking in the cultural scene, Chu is convinced – and this does not only apply to the large institutions.
“To succeed, artists remain compliant within their environment,” she says. “Left-wing policy opinion is welcome today. But if you want to argue in real politics, for example, you will have a hard time in the art world – both in the audience and in the acquisition of funding.”
In theory, free art does not need a democratic majority, says Kiesel.
“In reality, however, money is allocated solely on the basis of democratic majorities. And that is basically where the great potential for conflict between politics and free art lies.”
They said that everything is an art and art brings people together, like the gallery openings, discussions, and even in social media applications like custom paint by number and other events — and a further theme emerging in recent months is the idea that communities created by art can have political potential, and that accordingly artists and curators should work to create and strengthen artistic communities.