Wednesday, May 16, 2012

"Art will cease to be political when reality ceases to be political."

April 12, 2011

"Art will cease to be political when reality ceases to be political."

- NYT Reader comment on the Ai Weiwei detention story in China. Not to say Art MUST be political. But as a social practice by many people, it will be, and a free practice is, we trust, it is vastly better.

Another interesting reader comment:

"(in the West) We don't call it "censorship;" instead we say something like "the market isn't interested/it won't make money....See Jeff Koons, and a long list of other trivial, highly marketable 'artists' who are not only accepted, but heavily promoted - precisely because while they may seem culturally outrageous, they are politically harmless. "

It may surprise you to learn of the huge commercial success of avant-garde art in China - but the arrest of Ai- a big deal- changes much. Art can be commercial, poetic, it can edgy, or political, or all of these. To the Chinese dictatorship, edgy is great: it gains prestige and business. (As it does here.) But political is a crime. This underscores the incredible potential and emptiness of much contemporary work.

The severe suppression of a painter's Chen Guang's work two years ago- his work on Tienanmen Square was not just censored but nearly eradicated from the Internet - while edgy performance and situationist styles flourished in China, suggested to me that painting what's in front of your nose with courage is still one of the most uncontrollable, powerful art forms.

And finally, I am deeply disappointed in the tone of all the commenters in the articles. None of these professors and curators of Asian Art and political affairs, stands up and says: China's arrest of Ai is wrong, it is meant to crush free thinking, it hurts both China's growing culture and international standing, and China must be pressured to release him. Several weakly imply it.

I tire greatly of balanced, reasonable deference to dictators.