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Day to Day Politics: What does art say about politics?

Friday 28 July 2017

When I was studying for my Dip of Fine Arts I often used to say when we were discussing its history that ”Art in all its forms is but a reflection of society”. A “class” fascination for me was trying to identify the political leanings of my fellow students. Invariably when they spoke about their work, it was apparent that those painting with a social objective, or commitment to social justice were always of the left.

As for me, I always confronted the class and told them that if art was not commenting on society then it was not contributing toward it.

Art over many centuries has reflected the society in which it found itself. From ancient aboriginal painting to Pablo Picasso’s depiction of war in his critical, work Guernica, which was a powerful political statement about the Spanish war. In addition, of course the Russians and Germans made art a general tool of propaganda. Then there was early Christian art that portrayed arguably the worlds first socialist as white and fragile when the reverse was probably the truth.

Throughout history art has been used in as a means of political persuasion. Art challenges many of society’s deepest assumptions. Look at the persuasive techniques of street art. Think about the protest songs of the 60s and the rap singers of today. Think about the environmental Lyrics of John Denver, and the working class words of Bruce Springsteen. The protest songs of Dylan and Joan Baez. The writing of John Steinbeck whose book “The Grapes of Wrath” changed my life and the leftish writing of Australian poet Henry Lawson. Civil rights had no greater champion than the black entertainer Harry Belafonte.

In my observation and experience artists be they writers, actors, painters, sculptors, poets, and musicians or from whatever genre predominately come from the left. They tend to be more sensitive to the marginalised and social issues like the environment, gay rights and are more open-minded about such issues. Their views are more humanitarian and empathetic. Artists are not afraid to speak through their work and readily accept the challenges of change and its consequences. Artists see possibilities and opportunities that others don’t. The left side of politics has always attracted those from the arts because there is a mutual philosophical co existence and understanding of what human nature is. There are wealthy artists however most love their art before wealth.I imagine there are also artists who would define themselves as conservative or “right-wing” but they are in the minority.

Artists and the left exist in a natural marriage of ideological compassion and understanding that speaks of protest of dissent of change of charity and challenge but most of all for the common good.

Art shares its values and social democracy exists for the same reason.

My thought for the day.

“We judge art not by how it arrived on the canvas but how it speaks once there.”



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  1. Terry2

    Malcolm Roberts has said this morning that he emailed the British authorities repeatedly prior to nominating for the Senate to renounce his British citizenship.

    Pity he didn’t go on to the UK government website where he would have found form RN used to renounce British citizenship

    After lodging this form he would have received a ‘declaration of renunciation’ which he can present to the President of the Senate as empirical proof and as long as it is dated prior to his nomination for a Senate seat everything is hunkydory.

    Over to you Malcolm.

  2. Owen ...

    If most artists are left leaning that would explain why it’s funding is regularly reduced when the right parties come to power…They suggest it’s a waste of money as if they make little contribution to our land … So wrong for so many reasons….

  3. John Lord

    Absolutely correct Owen.

  4. Harquebus

    “Artists see possibilities and opportunities that others don’t.” Got anything to back this statement? I find it very hard to believe.
    Perhaps the possibilities and opportunities you state are just delusions that others don’t have.

    Physics dictates regardless of what art says and will continue to.

    “Mother nature is just chemistry, biology and physics. That’s all she is. You cannot sweet-talk her. You cannot spin her. You cannot tell her that the oil companies say climate change is a hoax. No, Mother Nature is going to do whatever chemistry, biology and physics dictate. Mother nature always bats last, and she always bats 1,000.” — Robert K. Watson

    For Civilization: This Is Necessary (Life Feeds On Life) 3 min.

  5. bearbrooke

    I put a fair amount of energy into carving wood and stone, working as a sculptor, but hesitate to call myself an artist. Artistry is originative, at least in my mind, springing from perceptions of nature that are incidental to the political thinking you describe John Lord. Yet your essay is perceptive.

    A work of art is, as you observe, contextual. Great art emerges from the family of humans; it is not bound by a culture or language nor constrained by a polity. But you are astute John Lord — great art is always about nature, has a primal quality, in the sense that it is about perceptions of life and thought great art is socialistic.

    Socialism, it seems to me, in the artist’s mind is an afterthought and yet is inevitably there. A small illustration — I was in a coffee shop mesmerised by the sight of a woman holding a child. The folds of her dress, how the gesturing of head and hands tied mother to child, child’s eyes intent on her, the fall of her hair, sensual creasing of flesh touching flesh — later I carved a piece I called ‘bondage’. I prefer the abstract — to extract, in this instant, a particular feeling. A feeling which, in retrospect, was ‘humanitarian and empathetic’ — exactly as you say John Lord. But the polity was retrospective.

    I liked your essay very much.

  6. bearbrooke

    Harquebus I tend to agree with you. Poor art, which is most art, is merely opinion. Great art is observation — just like great science.

  7. Joseph Carli

    Harquebus your “gun” is pointing at the wrong target, and while that ghastly clip demonstrates the cruel automation of animal slaughter, there is no art in the deeds, but rather is the “art: in the emotion felt by the sensitive viewer…If your “you tube” clip was held up as an “artistic piece” in its own right, without the viewers sensitivity (presumed) attached as a”given”, it would have no credibility save witness to cruel practice.

    “…“art” does not exist in itself, but rather as an adjunct to physical experience and cultural existence!… it is not a separate construction of the imagination, if it was, every wicked deed, every insidious act must also be construed as a “work of art” alongside sublime desire! No longer do we aspire to the heroic deed or moment as depicted in Odyssey or Aenied, easier to descend to the lowest common denominator. ”

    It is misdirected enthusiasm, I believe, to attribute the word :”art” to many non-artistic objects and actions. A work of art must have deliberate intention by its creator to turn the mediocre or the everyday into an emotional experience..and THERE, in the emotion of the viewer is the art…not in the physical image or action, but in the watcher’s internal emotional interpretation.

  8. helvityni

    Art has gone to sleep, the dull Howard years were followed by artless Abbott era and our Merchant of Venice has not said anything about Art either….

    The only art they are interested in, is the art of war, weapons, under-water boats, bullying and belittling….the art of border protection…
    Art is missing inspirational leaders like Gough the greatest…and Keating, with his appreciation of Mahler , movies, all things beautiful…

    Who is going to wake you up, Art….?

  9. Rhonda

    Spot on helvityni. This government knows only the Art of Destruction

  10. helvityni

    Joseph, grazie mille, off to Sydney, will read later…

    Yes Rhonda, Art of Destruction, they are scary…

  11. John Lord

    There is no such thing as an original idea because there is always a preceding pathway of thought.

  12. wam

    A pleasant read today, Lord, hardly a truth in sight and ending with ‘how it speaks once there’. ‘It’ is is the art of the maker ‘speaks’ is the art of the ‘see-er’.
    Both the oldest rabbottian friend(the highest IQ in the class of ’53) in my circle and me were critical of gough in 73. The difference came when we stood in front of blue poles. I was mesmerized and he impressed by the size. Natural or learned? He has a painting on his wall, by his profoundly disabled son which has 3 coloured strokes and the first time I saw it I was thrilled at the art and shocked by his dismissive ‘oh that is done by mike’.
    I assumed, he being so intelligent, he could see pig-iron bob and playford as stodgy maintainers no longer appropriate for the times. The first time we went on a trip to the west coast fishing, I played dylan and baez to silence but when I put vivaldi on he vehemently objected. Natural or learned?
    The real amazement of assuming, came when we went overseas to see his friends in canada and bahamas. We stopped in hongkong and japan where he, despite learning french at school, saw no difference in appearance or language. The latter he mimicked with the ching chang chong of the slopes. Natural or learned?
    Even after these hints, it was not till the height of howard’s horror selling when he protested that he supported the libs and admired howard and all his white singlet beliefs fell into place, my assumptions shattered and I reflected on his 50 year’s silently putting up with my ranting against his political beliefs.
    He is still conservative but confessed the rabbott made him change to support the slimey X. Sadly, we don’t have enough time to get him to accept non-european languages and he will never concede Aborigines, Aricans or Islanders are as intelligent as white people.
    His seeing is so very different from mine. He is of his upbringing and closes his mind to change by not discussing his beliefs.

  13. Freethinker

    Nice article, I only disagree with this: As for me, “I always confronted the class and told them that if art was not commenting on society then it was not contributing toward it.”

  14. Harquebus

    Joseph Carli
    I know exactly what I am aiming for.

    “Why does he [Harquebus] always pick on what I write?” — John Lord

    Despite decades of attempts, I have woken relatively few as to the true nature of our predicament, its causes and the solution. John Lord has the potential to wake many, many more. If I can not reach a mind like his then, there is little hope. I will persist until all is lost.

    “Humans often celebrate the diversity of ways they have found to channel the energy to the environment as waste heat. They never really seem to understand the “meaning of life” although they perform it mindlessly. The human behavioral repertoire reveals their true nature as dissipative structures, especially their greed and egotistical self-interest.”
    “Most humans are interested in getting rich by owning various features of the infrastructure, unaware that the seemingly perpetual flow of energy will come to an end in our linear exercises in gradient reduction.”

  15. enslaved

    Capitalism = Fascism = Animalism and any art that cannot be used as propaganda or for the promotion of the former ism’s or for profit because it represents or promotes alternative modes of thought or behavior contrary to the ideology of the Capitalist Fascist Animalists is to be quashed and that means removing public funding. In-fact any alternative thought is to be vigorously quashed and that is the main reason for the existence of dogma religion, the mainstream media and cannabis prohibition,etc,etc,etc.

  16. Leah

    Speaking of art and physics why not check out this website:
    The moral of the story is that quantum physics tells us the presumed objective world “out there” is much more fluid/plastic and paradoxical than what our normal common sense presumes.
    What we presume to see “out there” is in fact a projection fabricated by our brain and nervous system

  17. Roswell

    I will persist until all is lost.

    Harquebus, you will persist until John Lord is sick of it.

    John’s articles are not a platform for you to sell your message. They are a platform for John to express his.

  18. Graham

    John Re: In my observation and experience artists be they writers, actors, painters, sculptors, poets, and musicians or from whatever genre predominately come from the left.
    You may be right John though many an artist,writer and musician I have met are selfish narcissist’s and narrow minded fundamentalist’s who just fell into their obsession because it suits their puerile disposition. Many give nothing back; especially many musicians. Not sure Hitler was of the left?

  19. Joseph Carli

    But Harqurbus…if you took all that to heart, you wouldn’t bother getting out of bed in the morning!….I mean, all that sort of vanity was covered in the opening paragraphs of “Ecclesiastes”.

  20. Harquebus

    It’s not my message and to give J.L. credit, he is a lot more tolerant than you are.

    “Now more than ever, Gaea wants for us to cut the bullshit and speak out as if our lives depend on it. Because they do.” — Deb Ozarko

    I am not a lone voice. Join us.

    “Dare to stand before those you fear and speak your mind, even if your voice shakes.” — Maggie Kuhn

    Joseph Carli
    But, I do and when the time comes to rebuild, I want to be part of it.

    I know I have pushed it again. Backing off now.

  21. Roswell

    … he is a lot more tolerant than you.

    I wouldn’t bet on it.

  22. John

    Most cultures from prehistoric times have decorated any suitable surface, whereas in Australia it is an activity considered by tptb to approach terrorism.

    @ Owen, I reserve judgement on arts administrators.
    @ Enslaved, Hindmarsh, Adelaide 1980s; “B- not just a blood group, a way of life”

  23. John Lord

    How did H get back in anyway?

  24. Freethinker

    John Lord July 28, 2017 at 12:26 pm
    How did H get back in anyway?

    John, individuals with IT knowledge but low in manners and educations can bypass the rules of the forum.

  25. Roswell

    That’d be my fault, John. He had been in moderation but as he had played by our rules for a while I let him back in.

    As an author you are free to delete his comments, or as a moderator I can do it for you at your request.

    Let me know.

  26. stephentardrew

    We are still alive and doing even though the market place has excluded many.

    Artists do not give up regardless and, yes John, art, aesthetics and ethics go hand in hand.

  27. Michael Taylor

    Roswell/John, it’s easier if the author just deletes the comments from their own post, that way we don’t have to rely on moderators to be on hand all the time.

  28. Harquebus

    I never left. Thinking up handles and email addresses is easy. None that I am aware of knew that I was making comments incognito and I prefer not to do it that way.

    Part of an agreement that I had with Michael Taylor was that, authors could delete or edit my comments and I would not complain. I am not entirely happy with this but, went along with it and will still abide.

    I won’t argue about my manners but, have to take issue with my “educations”. I am highly educated. I listened to the lectures, did the homework and sat and passed the exams. It wasn’t easy and it is an achievement that am proud of.

    I will never resort to hacking or cause harm to theAIMN nor any associates even though, sometimes I do get riled. I am better than that.

    I thank you.

  29. enslaved

    @John, you arrogant so and so!!!!

  30. wam

    Mother nature is art at the highest level. Only the libs can look through a tree, a sunset or a cloud without wonder. From memory one of russia’s best players was asked about a sunset and he was dismissive. The coach told him ‘you do not have the imagination for my team’ and sacked him.

    Science is art Leonard Shlain ‘shows how the artists’ images when superimposed on the physicists’ concepts create a compelling fit.(parallel visions in space time and light)

  31. Harquebus

    Agree. I can stare in awe and wonder for a considerable amount of time at nature from the smallest to the infinite and spend hours thinking laterally about it whereas, a painting or a sculpture is never more than a minute or two at most.
    My neighbor just spent a few minutes watching me do exactly that before calling out. I was in another world.
    Each to our own.

  32. jimhaz

    We all want to “save the world” – even about half of the conservative crowd. Harquebus is just doing this – and if he is not entirely right, he is a lot more right than wrong. The danger with global warming/overpopulation is our collective animal nature – until it hurts enough we won’t change adequately, and that is a problem due to the slowness of warming relative to our material/spawning desires.

  33. Phil

    Its becoming really tiresome avoiding reading all the posts by Harquebus – why does anyone waste time responding – it only pours fuel on the fire.

    John, “Most cultures from prehistoric times have decorated any suitable surface….”

    Decorated? Sounds like a cult of graffitists.

    Lynne Kelly’s recently published book ‘The Memory Code’ makes a compelling argument on the functionality of the ‘art’ of early cultures – no suggestion whatsoever of any decorative function. Lynne was interviewed recently on ABC podcast – well worth listening to.

  34. Andrew

    Harquebus 10:16 “They never really seem to understand the “meaning of life” although they perform it mindlessly. The human behavioral repertoire reveals their true nature as dissipative structures, especially their greed and egotistical self-interest.”
    “Most humans are interested in getting rich by owning various features of the infrastructure, unaware that the seemingly perpetual flow of energy will come to an end in our linear exercises in gradient reduction.”
    Ok a couple of points. Firstly you assert that most people never understand the meaning of life, although they perform it mindlessly. I would argue that ‘life’ has no meaning in it self, rather, it is a reflection of the meaning we give to it. Our perception of life is a direct result of our interactions and appreciations. Without any action ‘life’ has no meaning. Secondly you mention our linear exercises in gradient reduction. I s that not a subjective view based upon what we value and strive to attain? You try to frame the human condition as one devoid of emotion and reactive consequence. Is art not inspired by emotion; something that is not tangible and deeply personal? Also, not all cultures see their worldview and mortality as lineal. Ask an Indigenous Australian about the elliptical view that they have of creation, the Dreaming, and the part their life plays in the grand scheme of things as they see it. What might be considered art to you might touch me deeply; therefore it is subjective and contextual. You can not with any sincerity, whittle down what defines its impact to fit within a set of self-defined boundaries which best align with your empirically driven mindset. Just my view.

  35. Matters Not

    Harquebus July 28, 2017 at 1:30 pm

    I am highly educated

    Sad. So very, very sad.

  36. Matters Not

    Andrew re:

    would argue that ‘life’ has no meaning in itself, rather, it is a reflection of the meaning we give to it.

    Can only agree. Humans are the meaning makers – the giver of meaning(s). Not the receivers as most assume.

  37. Harquebus

    It was an excerpt from the link that I provided. Did you read it?
    The article compares the biological and industrial energy consumption of various entities.

    Matters Not
    Sad are the responses that I get from this place. The herd mentality dominates and just like the mobs that we lead to slaughter, this mob is being led the same way. I notice that you, as part of the herd, do very little toward avoiding this.

  38. helvityni

    Joseph Carli. “Beautiful Dreamer”, a beautifully told sad story, dreams turning into nightmares…cry…

  39. helvityni

    This year’s Archibald Prize winner, Mitch Cairns: “I composed this portrait with love. Agatha and I share everything in our lives; our two-year-old son; our work as artists and our day-to-day lives”

    His dream had a happy ending…smile.

  40. Roswell

    Harquebus says:

    Sad are the responses that I get from this place.

    Gosh, I wonder why.

    The herd mentality dominates …

    Yet you’d have us all follow you. Like a herd.

    I notice that you [Matters Not] … do very little toward avoiding this [the mobs we lead to slaughter]

    Please tell us what you know about Matters Not’s private life that substantiates that claim.

    I know nothing about Matters Not’s private life, but I do know that on this site he has a habit of addressing the issues in the topics in an intelligent and engaging manner.

    You could learn from him.

  41. Harquebus

    Okay. I’m ready. Let’s go.
    Learn me.

  42. Roswell

    As soon as you tell me what you know about Matters Not’s private life that backs up your accusation

  43. Harquebus

    You have taken my comment out of context. Whatever M.N. does in his private life toward avoiding the coming calamity, it is not reflected here. I appreciate any advice or information that helps in this regard. I hope he provides some.

    Over to you. I am so looking forward to being learned.

  44. Roswell

    I said you could learn from Matters Not.

    Do try to keep up.

  45. Harquebus

    Nothing to learn from you. Okay.
    Moving on.

  46. Mark Needham

    HarquebusJuly 28, 2017 at 7:51 am
    “Artists see possibilities and opportunities that others don’t.”

    Gee, you’re game, saying that here.!
    Of course it is true, it is said by a person, who has education, knowledge, wisdom and infallabilitie, fullameself, infubull, infallibility, not some moron from the RIGHT.
    What would they have to contribute?.
    An alternate view?
    Get real, harquebus, you know something, that we don’t know already, ( and have a better conception, meaning and understanding of)
    Not knowing,
    Mark Needham
    PS. This is not a site for those with an Alternate view. If you want a discussion, heck…not sure where you go to get it.

  47. Roswell

    Nothing to learn from me? Good. I don’t have to bother engaging with you anymore.

  48. Harquebus

    They are symptoms which, when combined with others all indicate that, that is the case but, not in the religious sense. See my links below. The religious loons that already have their armed retreats is something that concerns me. Religion has had a large roll to play in bringing us to our current unsustainable situation.

    Mark Needham
    That was me quoting John Lord. Perhaps you should direct your comment towards him.

    As much as I’d like to believe you, I am sure that it will only be a matter of time before you will not be able to contain yourself. You have never before resisted laying the boot into me. Not that it bothers me. In the overall scheme of things, you are just small potatoes.

    “the future is almost certainly worse than you imagine.”
    “The burden of hope falls particularly on those who live in affluent societies. Indulging despair would risk sabotaging any adequate collective response to the situation.”
    “Though there are risks to embracing pessimism and fear, they are a necessary aspect of confronting our situation. And more positive outlooks entail their own problems. Hoping that science will provide a solution is its own kind of surrender, relieving the pressure of confronting the ways of life that have given rise to climate change in the first place. This hope also downplays the fact that such solutions likely will entail living in a world marked by pain and suffering directly and indirectly caused by what we have done to nature.”
    “The hope that we will invent technological means of preserving our way of life is itself part of the problem.”
    “It is easier to hope for a wild geoengineering solution than face the reality that billions of people need to change their daily habits in order to lessen the immense suffering appearing on the horizon.”
    “Rather than investing in technological salvations that will allow us to prolong a way of life that is destroying the rest of nature, we can embrace pessimism. In abandoning hope that one way of life will continue, we open up a space for alternative hopes.”

    “Only a small fraction of the crustal fossil carbon compounds can provide an EROEI > 1, the consequence is that the active phase of the Anthropocene is destined to last only a relatively short time for a geological time subdivision, a few centuries and no more.”

    As I stated previously, I am not a lone voice.

  49. nurses1968

    I have over the top religious nutters for neighbours and they don’t worry as “God” won’t let Climate Change happen and anyhow, the believe in Revelations that the 144000 will be plucked off and sent of to heaven and they will be included.
    If I happen to be on a plane at the time I hope my pilot isn’t one of the 144000.
    The have an answer for everything, poverty, starving children wars etc “It is Gods will”
    No wonder I.m an atheist.Who’d want to follow a sicko like that.
    Thankfully I work a lot and when I am home I avoid them like the plaque as there is no reasoning and I’m sure their single purpose in life is to have me come over to their dark side

  50. Harquebus

    On this subject, we are on the same wavelength.

    John Lord
    Believe it or not but, I have been mulling over your article. Art, science and the ability to grasp abstract concepts etc. You paint I believe. Computer programming which, I do, is also an art. Recently, a software glitch somewhere was not able to be debugged because, it was written by artificial intelligence and none of the boffins had any idea as to where the problem might be.
    Artificial intelligence can now recognize faces, describe photographs, compose music, write stories, alter video of speech and insert dialogue that is indistinguishable from human speech.

    My question is, if artificial intelligence produces a painting that is indistinguishable from those produced by human hand, is it still art? Jus’ askin’.

  51. Harquebus

    They’re not there yet John but, I think it is only a matter of time.

    “The subjects of his ephemeral artwork are not born from any brush. Rather, they are sculpted — roughly — from the digital imagination of his computer’s neural network.”

    “The terrifying faces may look like creatures from a horror movie, but these digital images were actually generated by artificial intelligence (AI).”

    “The AI system figured out its goal (reward) by developing its own secret language. Albeit, the Google team say that they “think” this is what happened, meaning they don’t “know” for sure.”

    Converting a photo to resemble a painting is already a piece of cake.
    Search criteria: photo to painting converter

    Will AI develop an understanding of politics? What might happen if it does? What will those who control it do with it?

    Search criteria: artificial intelligence politics

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