Sunday, August 13, 2006

"Politics in Art"

Seen @ Common Dreams

"The great poet Denise Levertov.... believed the poet should be engaged with the world.

She was a regular presence for years at anti-war demonstrations, both against Vietnam and the first Gulf War (she died in 1997), and has been was involved in other political causes.

For her, the poet should avoid what she called the "dangers of self-indulgent sentimentalism," or confessions for confessions' sake.

"I feel that if a person is just coldly, cynically unconcerned, that his or her art will suffer from this," she said... "But I also think that many people are concerned with the fate of their fellow beings but are just constitutionally not capable of giving their time and energy to activism. I think it would be wrong to judge them; people's own consciences should judge them, not another person."

...politics is part of this equation, that even Dante and Shakespeare were writing from a political point of view.

...The impact that all of these poets have as artists grows from the intertwining of the seemingly mundane motion of daily life and the larger currents of history and politics that color and corrupt it.

"For that's how it's always been —" Mr. Shabtai writes in "Rosh Hashanah," "the murderers murder, / the intellectuals make it palatable, / and the poet sings."


I'm attracted to art - visual, poetry, music - that is connected to politics. That doesn't mean that everything an artist does will be a political statement - or obviously so.

Picasso said:

'No, painting is not made to decorate apartments. its an offensive and defensive weapon against the enemy.'

Paintings like Picasso's Guernica say an lot with no words. Even though it was about a particular atrocity - it becomes universal. Such things keep happening. Picasso seems to access underlying emotions about it - that aren't often expressed ordinarily.

At the same time - people can be "talking" about politics in their art without it being obvious. Politics is an underlying part of my current work - the emotions and energy that I put into it - are partly as result of what is going on in the world. I used to paint landscapes - from life. With the Iraq war - probably because of the ability to be more aware of things because of the internet - I didn't feel like doing that. It didn't feel right to be painting the beautiful things of this world - with it being such a mess. Even though I actually spend a lot of time thinking about what is going on on this planet - as is obvious from this blog.

Simplicity can be a political statement - as opposed to art that glorifies luxury (or war).

I was looking at some Chinese paintings online.

I love things like Li Bo in stroll which is considered an "Important Cultural Property". The simplicity. The art of saying much with a few lines.

What if nobody saw the worth in that. If the "art historians" only praised gaudy work. It would have been lost to history and we would never know of it.

Sort of like - in the 70s - people started calling the art the women have traditionally done "art". Quilts and such. The value that people place on things has political implications as well. Such things are made for the home - "made to decorate apartments" - not made with museums in mind.

Western (patriarchal) values seem to be such that art should be about war and/or religion - or that such art is should be valued higher. I think that there are many reasons and uses for art. I think different things have value and purpose for different reasons. And it's not always obvious what poems are about.


A couple of Poems:

"Everything That Acts Is Actual"

From the tawny light
from the rainy nights
from the imagination finding
itself and more than itself
alone and more than alone
at the bottom of the well where the moon lives,
can you pull me

into December? a lowland
of space, perception of space
towering of shadows of clouds blown upon
clouds over
new ground, new made
under heavy December footsteps? the only
way to live?

The flawed moon
acts on the truth, and makes
an autumn of tentative
You lived, but somewhere else,
your presence touched others, ring upon ring,
and changed. Did you think
I would not change?

The black moon
turns away, its work done. A tenderness,
unspoken autumn.
We are faithful
only to the imagination. What the
as beauty must be truth. What holds you
to what you see of me is
that grasp alone.

- Denise Levertov


"Who But is Pleased to Watch the Moon on High"

WHO but is pleased to watch the moon on high
Travelling where she from time to time enshrouds
Her head, and nothing loth her Majesty
Renounces, till among the scattered clouds
One with its kindling edge declares that soon
Will reappear before the uplifted eye
A Form as bright, as beautiful a moon,
To glide in open prospect through clear sky.
Pity that such a promise e'er should prove
False in the issue, that yon seeming space
Of sky should be in truth the stedfast face
Of a cloud flat and dense, through which must move
(By transit not unlike man's frequent doom)
The Wanderer lost in more determined gloom.

- Wordsworth

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