02 December 2018
Dr Great Art Episode 45: Hope in Art
The newest Dr Great Art podcast: Episode 45, Hope in Art
Hope against all hope. What is the role of hope in art? To me, it is all important for new developments.
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4 November 2018
Hope in Art
Hi this is Mark Staff Brandl, with the 45th "Dr Great Art" brief podcast.
This episode's artecdote concerns the The Role of Hope in Art
I am recording this right before the US Midterm elections of 2018. This could be a partial turning point away from hate, or the beginning of a rapid descent into disguised fascism. I know this well as an art historian; I study and teach the times under Mussolini, the Nazis and for that matter, even the end of Ancient Rome, all of which have bearing here. And in Switzerland we have a referendum which is an isolationist attack on accepting international human rights laws. I hope the TrumpChumps and the rightwing SVP lose. Let us hope and see. This vote in the US is probably do-or-die for democracy.
The future isn't looking hopeful. Climate destruction; mass migration due to hopeless situations; wars in the middle east; manufactured slides to the right in Europe, South America and the US; financial instability; the destruction of the middleclass by the super wealthy (with a chunk of the middleclass voting against their own interests in the name of hate); the rise of nationalism constructed to twist the desire for democratic socialism; the acceptance of lying and propaganda by politicians, etc.
It’s difficult to look into the future with any hope.
What IS the role of hope in art? To me, it is all important. As Dr Cornel West says, and I concur heartily, "I cannot be an optimist but I am a prisoner of hope."
Much art and many artists need hope. As Cornel also says, "I must feel the fire of my soul so my intellectual blues can set others on fire."
And yet I hear time and again that "crisis is necessary for change." Perhaps. But usually NOT, AND "crisis" is not the same as disaster! Was a thousand years of the almost-destruction of civilization in Medieval times necessary for the couple hundred years of the wonder of the Renaissance (which had its own great faults and problems as well)? No. If you believe a thousand years is a crisis, you need more perspective.
It was the flicker of hope that never fully went out in the Medieval times, which was fanned into a great (if flawed) fire in the Renaissance. A sense of new hopes is what triggers revitalizations and leaps forward in culture, especially the arts.
And I feel this is generally true of individual artists and artworks as well.
I am old enough to have been conscious and active in the 60s. At the end mostly, but THERE. (And in truth it went on through about 1973 or so, being killed by Neo-Liberal Reaganomics.) The 1960’s, in the US most of all, but also the UK and the rest of Europe and elsewhere, for all its horror of the endless Viet Nam War and battles in the streets, was a decade-plus of energy, prosperity, increasing social justice --- and yes, HOPE! It was, in many ways, a mini-Renaissance.
This time period was full of positive changes and advancements, --- the Civil Rights Movement, Martin Luther King Jr, Malcolm X, the Black Panthers, the SDS, the beginning of what is now called second-wave Feminism, the battle for women's rights, the bits of social-system improvements, of JFK and LBJ's Great Society Dreams based on FDR's New Deal, Eisenhower's taxing of the wealthy and great improvement of the infrastructure, European healthcare systems, the general belief in the pillars of progressive society--- that is, Liberty, Equality and Brother- and Sisterhood.
Heck, even the great new color and joy of popular culture, art, music, dance and fashion beginning in the UK and spreading to the US and elsewhere was positive. Nations even began to deal with many heated movements as well. Debates as well as intense wars caused times of turbulence. However, we all felt a sense that no matter how difficult it was, things were beginning to improve and would continue to do so. Little did we know, this would be purposefully, expensively, and hatefully inverted within a few decades.
But while it was there, this hope and openness fostered some amazing works and movements of art and music. They are indeed too many to quickly list!
My point, is that this was engendered by HOPE. The aspects of crisis were the brakes, not the accelerator of that time.
From my studies, I can only imagine the Renaissance as that times 100! And aspects of the Enlightenment and the Reformation and the advent of Socialism, all of which had their downsides as we see so well now, but the initial spark was positive and one of hope for the future. AND the belief that humans could improve and master their societies.
Do any of us feel that positivity now? Be truthful. When I ask my young classes that, there is seldom even a single person who truly believes that. The most positive among them tend rather to be stoics, thinking it is all going to hell, but PERHAPS we can work and barely get through it.
The Trump era is actually the era wherein politicians got bought and pushed radically right by the Koch Brothers and their ilk, and supported by the nonstop hate-filled lying of Murdoch-owned media including FOX TV and UK newspapers. Sinking the slight taste of hope we had with Obama. Trump et al. mirror Mussolini in many ways. And we know what THAT lead to. Truthfully, this might be the end of democracy. Slowly but surely, for ages. So hope IS hard to believe in.
Art has academicized itself, closed itself into a little consensus-clique of social-climbers, sold-out to the speculators and power-coteries; music has split into islands of either capitalist-servants or ignored sub-cultures. Literature is largely ignored. And so on. So once again, it is hard to hope.
When I hear talks of how we artists and artworldians will lead into a new future, I have to laugh a kind of gallows-chuckle. Things in society have to improve, especially economically, drastically FIRST. Then progressive tendencies have to return. THEN artists will begin to assist in all that. We have historically been children of the working classes, artisans, supported by insightful "lower" rich, the upper, even upper-upper middleclass. This no longer holds. Corporations and grant agencies and international curator-stars are not replacements for a real artworld. They are in fact counterproductive to that.
Perhaps positive change will occur through the so-called Millennials. I teach them, worked with them politically in the US and Switzerland, and am far more impressed with their values than any group since the 60s. But the Powers-That-Be have them in their sights, and may also twist them with their American Idol/Deutschland sucht der Superstar idiocies. We shall see.
However, what I clearly see, is that we will make no serious headway out of the malaise and morass of Postmodernism until we have a sense of culture-wide HOPE. We can assist in that through Social Practice Art, Eco-Art, Mongrel Art, Democratic Art and others, but the economics and politics must be changed first. In all countries I am connected to, go out and VOTE for progressives. And ignore the media-manipulated propaganda of hate and despair.
Art cannot really lead, but it can be an important facet of such action. Let us create and build and support things which bring progress and HOPE.
I, in my actions and my art, shall try to "hope against all hope."
Thanks for listening. Podcast number 45.
The Role of Hope in Art
If you wish to hear more cool, exciting and hopefully inspiring stuff about art history and art, come back for more. Also, I, Dr Mark Staff Brandl, artist and art historian, am available for live custom Performance-Lectures. In English und auf Deutsch.
I take viewers inside visual art and art history. Entertainingly, yet educationally and aesthetically, I analyze, underline, and discuss the reasons why a work of art is remarkable, or I go through entire eras, or indeed through the entirety of art history, or look at your desired theme through the lens of art history. The lectures often take place with painted background screens and even in my room-filling painting-installations with accompanying paintings.
Some recent ones were on the entire history of Women Artists throughout history and a taster of many of my presentations.
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