why art? why now?
The election has made everything seem scary, overwhelming, and futile.
What point is art in a dictatorship? It is an easy question to ask, but also easy to answer when you take the time to think about it. Art is the most important thing we can have in a dictatorship.
Resistance is suppressed but real art is resistance even when it lacks that intention. Art is self-expression so resists the whims of a fascist state that wants you to express what it tells you to express. The totalitarian will have the finest statues and paintings and design, sure…but we can say with confidence that that is propaganda and not art. What will be missing from all of these things is individual tastes and style. The will of the authoritarian avoids the vulnerability that makes art possible, masking it behind the falsehood of “perfect” standards that he alone defines.
The fascist’s art is a flawless, stillborn dream that can only even be critiqued in the language of how much it meets the fascist’s standards.
To express yourself to others in a way that direct dialogue cannot, to bare parts of your vulnerable self; no matter how imperfect, that is art. That art, shared with others to critique and perceive as they will, is resistance to the solitary vision of life that the totalitarian holds for you.
So then this question, which I’ve asked myself and I bet many of you have as well…why bother with making art now? Shouldn’t we be doing more? Well, I think we should do those other things too! But we must make art in parallel. It affirms why we are here, who we are, and what we will try to retain or re-acquire. Without art we become fascists as we fight the fascists.
This is why I took the time to think through my problems and re-dedicate myself to making art. Is social fiction art? Are games art? Those questions actually bore the crap out of me so I’ll just circle YES, highlight it, and hire a plane to spell out Y, E , S in the clouds.
When you experience art, you create a moment in time that they can’t take away. They can force you to hide it, they can make you renounce it, they can kill you if they need to, but the brutal arms of a totalitarian state can’t reach far enough to take these moments from you or from others who experience them. They have no way to track or stop the way seeing one image, one phrase, one scene imperceptibly alters your vector, your direction, your life. Worse yet, if your art is out there, it has a chance to spread, and “infect” more minds and lives.
Art is what they can’t take away.
And in the end, I think that’s how we win. It sounds glib, but what I believe is this: vulnerability beats dogma in the long run. The chains of dogma are forged from the iron of deception and force. Without trust, these links are brittle inside. These chains cannot support the weight the fascist tells you they can.
Vulnerability builds trust. That trust, if well-honored (trust lasts best when it is not abused, taken for granted or assumed) creates a core of incredible strength. That strength becomes the hammer that breaks those chains.
And what helps us be vulnerable, and be true? Art.
That is why we must create art and support art now more than ever.