Monday, June 2, 2008
Art in a Time of Collapse
New catastrophic figures come in daily about the destruction of species, the toxicity of the basic elements, the escalation of violence within communities and against communities. Whole groups of people have already been eradicated and many more face eminent destruction due to the cruel neglect of capitalism. Many predict complete environmental collapse in the near future. As we face what some refer to as post-industrial collapse, artists have a difficult task--what is the role of art in the face of the decline of so-called "civilization?" Should artists support political struggle, revolutionary struggle, or simply document the horrors of the contemporary world? Should we raise questions or attempt to answer them? Should we use our tools to organize or use our tools to challenge contemporary, destructive, grotesquely optimistic modes of thinking? These are questions we have to answer through our practice. I am not sure of the answers in my own work; however, I am sure that all too often people feel too secure, too knowledgeable, and too confident while facing global horrors. By distracting us from acknowledging our role in perpetrating global violence, capitalism succeeds in turning us into weapons. Perhaps the most important role of art is to disturb us, terrorize us, remind us that security is a destructive illusion. Perhaps art should move people to ask questions and take action, direct action, and struggle for liberation.