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THE ART OF THE GAME: How Art and Politics Influence and Shape Each Other

THERE is a deep relationship between politics and art.

Often, art has supported ideological and political views and at other time, artists have expressed their negative views and stood against individuals and policies. Art has the supreme power of affecting the public mood, changing opinions, and guiding the society. It has worked in the United States and elsewhere in the world. We see numerous examples in the 20th century, earlier than this, and even to this day.

What Does Politics Mean In Art?

Commenting on social political issues, artists have always explicitly or implicitly supported or opposed the status quo through their work. This has given birth to the term – Political Art. It has 4 major functions – 

  1. Sociopolitical Expression – Here, the artist expresses concerns about social and political issues with the aim of making the common mad better understand the issues.
  2. Propaganda – Often, the artists communicate an agenda either in support or against the government.
  3. Protest – Here, the artists shows his or her disapproval of government decisions or actions.
  4. Satire – The artist is protesting here but in a humorous way, once again, to increase the awareness among the masses.

In recent years, many contemporary artists are using street art to showcase their work and comment on political and human rights issues. Visit the event site to better understand what politics mean in art and how the artists are commenting on the political climate.

Political Art History

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Artists have for long commented on the politics of the time. Works have challenged war, authoritarian regimes, sexism, and racism. The Dada artists came up with their anti-war protest art in response to ultra-nationalism and World War I. Even before that, Jacques-Louis David in the 18th century depicted his political affiliations during the French Revolution.

We have seen many remarkable political paintings in art history like – 

  • The Battle of San Romano by Paolo Uccello
  • The Surrender of Breda by Velazquez
  • Liberty Leading the People by Eugène Delacroix
  • The Raft of the Medusa by Théodore Géricault
  • The Execution of Emperor Maximilian by Édouard Manet

These are all famous political paintings. There are many other examples in world art where the artists have commented on various issues like black lives matter, Harlem renaissance, post cold war, and others.

How Is Art Related To Politics?

Art is deeply related to political issues. It is often used to draw awareness to under-represented issues. It can be through a painting, political sculpture, and street photography. For example, the street artist Banksly creates politically-charged art that highlights various topics like migration and war. He created many murals in Gaza to increase the awareness about the long Israeli-Palestine conflict.

He has also created art pieces close to Calais in France to depict the migration crisis. They and other works like them highlight the deep relationship between politics and arts. Artists from the world over have always commented on current social and political issues.

However, the role of activist art or political art goes beyond just highlighting the injustices. Art often supports and also presents alternatives to the current status quo. Environmental art is an example of this. Here, the artists creates his work from eco-friendly and recycled materials, showing how brilliant work can be done by using things we throw away. The modern-day artists also promote energy efficiency, waste sorting, and reduced jet travels to save the environment. They are always looking for new and innovative ways to create art and inform us about the dangers of harming the environment.

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In What Ways Does Art Affect Politics And Culture?

It affects in various ways:

  1. Against political injustice – Art presents contemporary life in a stark way to highlight the injustices and suggest developments that can encourage resistance. The power of art has been demonstrated against white supremacy, institutional racism, and many other issues. Many famous activist art works have promoted change.
  1. Art encourages the building of political community – It also brings people together at events, discussions, and around gallery openings. Communities that art create can have political potential too. Curators and artists can work together to create and strengthen these communities.
  1. Art can suggest political alternatives – Art has often suggested solution, new political ideas, and redefined priorities. The Hamburger Bahnhof’s ‘Capital: Debt, Territory, Utopia’ through the huge collection of sculptures, paintings, videos, and other art forms draws attention to the debt in our lives. Many activists in recent years have drawn our attention to debt and its impact on financial crisis. Mauricio Lazzarato says ‘debt is the new proletariat’ in his book Governed by Debt.
  1. Art as a safe haven or escape – Satyajit Ray, the famous Indian movie director and Academy Award winner, is known for making serious movies on various social and cultural issues. However, in 1980, he released a movie titled – Heerak Rajar Deshe for children. It was packed with humor, but there was an underlying political satire spread throughout this movie. The famous author Jonathan Swift too wrote his Gulliver’s Travels book for children. However, the character, setting, plot, and narration of this book too were a comment on the social and political climate of the time.

Art and Politics Now

The art influence on society and politics cannot be overlooked. Political art ideas continue to affect our everyday lives. We see many examples of this around us, even in the current century. Some of the biggest names in the politics of arts today are Ai WeiWei, Agnes Denes, Yoko Ono, Jacob Lawrence, and David Wojnarowicz. They highlight many key issues and continue to influence society in their own unique ways.

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