Monday 27 October 2008

art, ads and agit-prop

This is a p.s. to keep it distinct which mentioned the 'tricky relationship' between art and green thinking. To spell this out further:

There's propaganda, which has a single message, and there's art, which has many possible interpretations, and then there's political art, which exists somewhere in between the two.

Any work that tries to raise public consciousness about an issue (and stimulate a response) would appear, broadly speaking, to be political art. That's a category, of course, that's embraced everything from Picasso's 'Guernica' to David Hare's Stuff Happens.

But there's also a vein of stylish and imaginative work emerging about climate change that has more to do with advertising than agit-prop (see here and here). That's laudable enough if it expresses your point of view (and it does mine).

But these projects* are going to value slickness, entertainment and superficiality. Why? Because they're employing the language and tone of consumerism to promote lifestyle choices. For many Greens, there's going to be an inherent contradiction there.

The range of creative responses to climate change is going to call for a new set of tools (a new taxonomy, perhaps). The first approach that comes to mind is the one that puts 'propaganda' at one end of the spectrum and 'art' at the other. But there'll be propaganda with high aesthetic value. And there'll be works that seem to be protesting but actually refuse to be pinned down. (Blowin' in the Wind would be a classic example from the Sixties.)

There's likely to be terrific tension between the urgency of the issue and the aesthetic challenges it presents (even assuming that this is something that needs to be aestheticised.) A critical framework is essential. Climate change is going to cause enough damage without it being responsible for a lot of bad art.

*Update: This wasn't clear enough. By 'projects', I meant the posters, ads, and videos, not the actions people take as a response to those. See two oppositions.

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