Art as a political project

People disagree on whether the practice of art is, could or should be a political act. Hey, I disagree with myself on this question. But I’m noting down this idea in the ‘no, that’s a mistake’ column:

I personally don’t believe that it’s art’s job to make the world a better place. That’s our job. Instead, it’s art’s job to give us a chance to become better people.

Jörg M. Colberg, Photography and Art

In part, this line resonated with me because it reminded me of a discussion I had many years ago with friend and artist Ruby Taylor, in which I was arguing something close to the opposite side (though a little more focused on material choices). At the time, we parted ways somewhat fractiously, but fortunately for the historical record – and this blog – Ruby was kind enough to follow up by email with a quote she had been trying to remember in the moment: 

Hi Andrew,
Apropos of our materials talk, here’s what I was trying to say… just found the quote. I reckon he’s on to something!

“Don’t ask what the world needs; ask yourself
What makes you come alive.
And then go and do that. Because the world
Needs people who have come alive”

– Harold Whitman.

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