Editorial – Volume 36 no 1 September / October 2021
From the moment we are born we begin to interact with the world around us. How we handle those interactions is the birth of ethics. So, too, the moment we commit ourselves to artistic expression we are communicating to the rest of the world and in all communication there is an element of political expression.
This is not the same as using art for political purposes. Every hustings has its posters, every dictator his statue cult. This is arch manipulation.
The act of creation describes something you want to explore, something you want to say and something you want to communicate. Maybe through what it represents and maybe over-and-above what it represents. We are all aware of the little emblems and associations artists have sneaked into their works down the ages that expand upon the theme of the work. It is the visual art version of Haiku, where every pictogram references not just itself, but where it has appeared in the literature before and the association it has with its own origins in imagery. (As an example of this: the pictogram for ‘sunrise’ derives from the fishing boat putting to sea because fishermen go to sea early in the morning.)
Artists are, in many cases, political animals even if they don’t want to be, because people respect them. And what they are can be seen as subversive, irrespective of their work, which is why many people believe Lorca was murdered not for his poetry but because he was homosexual and Franco’s Falangists hated anyone not heterosexual.
With this in mind this issue reads as a very political issue. Maybe more than usual. We have an article on whether or not high art exists, which goes to the heart of art politics. Art politics, for anyone who does not know, is the modern version of the academies where galleries and museums and nation state organisations, like the Arts Council in England, decide what is and what is not worth exhibiting. Miklos Legrady asks if Duchamp set the foundations in society for Donald Trump to gain power. Of course, not directly, but the rise of fascism is directly attributable to artists not being allowed to do their job. Which is to comment without fear or favour, with or without patronage, so that people can gain an idea of themselves as a nation.
Scott Turri interviews Robyn Day about her photography and ‘photographic truth’ and the way in which her work both shapes and informs the narrative of queer identity in the US. These are two people who fully understand the political necessity of the visual arts.
And then we have Jela Krečič whose work we read on eflux and her insights into the way in which modern fascist Hungary is using the visual arts. A vital read for us all.
The more we know, the more we need to know and we don’t know nearly enough about ourselves. Each of us is in charge of a brain that is large enough to encompass the universe of things, even if it is in broad brush strokes, and the visual arts can liberate us from the stultification of state politics and guide us into the politics of self and through this show us how little we have made ourselves compared to what we could be.
Editorial next issue: All politics is art.