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An Artist Shall Lead Us

I often picture myself standing in the middle of a crowded high street surrounded by the advertising, the messages, the film posters, the signs, the slogans, logos, make up and hair gel. Surrounded, I guess, by the complexity of the culture we have created and the people we have become to interact with this culture. Are we the snake of the tail in it’s/our mouth?

In my vision I am wearing a stained dressing gown with a flaming torch in my hand and a shopping trolley full of placards in front of me. I’m standing very still with my eyes closed deciding what to do with this culture next. Burn it to the ground or try to reason with it.

I’m sure I’m not alone in this feeling. Overwhelmed is a good description of it. Exhausted is another that describes many of the good people I know.  It seems like 99% of us are drowning in it and those are the ones who don’t have ‘Kardashian’ as their last name. So what do the placards say? The ones in my shopping cart?

I don’t think they say anything – instead they have art on them. Paintings, symbols, cartoons, photos, scrawls, collage and images. They have songs, stories, films all smeared with human fingerprints.

There’s enough criticism of the world using language that one can simply agree with or disagree with and move on – what art does is illicit a feeling that’s available to share. Something that creates (and bear with me here) a community around that feeling.

Brand VS Banksy

Let’s look at these two activists for a second. They are both, in my eyes, heroes of a very worthwhile cause and both ideologically similar.

Russell Brand is a talker – a man who stands on a podium or a stage. Yes, he’s an artist but his medium is symptomatically similar to the men and the system he’s trying to subvert. It’s long winded and, although eloquent, filled with rhetoric that has been used before by men with less good intent that Russ.

Whereas Banksy says very little. His is a visual language filled with images that connect over and above language. His work requires no decoding and yet begs for involvement. His is a flash point, while Brands is a slow fire that needs constant fanning to keep alight. Ironically, it borrows from the immediacy of advertising while seeing his work on a public wall reminds us what could be there instead of picture of a white person pointing at a product.

And this is the point: it is art that will pull us out of this cultural malaise that we find ourselves in. It’s art that will change our minds. And, I will go so far as to say – it’s the artist’s responsibility to do it. It’s the artist who has, by the very nature of the choices they have made to become artists, puts them on the outside of this sick culture and it’s they that need to show the rest of us the way out. It won’t be the suits and it won’t be the speechmakers. It will be the movements around something from the soul and for the soul.

Artists must create art that makes us realize our own humanity and create art that makes us want to respond with more art. It will be art that replaces the images of impossible lives that have been tattooed into our grey matter and it could be art that replaces our obsession with people that we don’t know in magazines and screens that care fuck all about us. Step up ‘Picasso 2014’ and paint us our Guernica – now more than ever we need you.

Finally, this from the very great Terrance McKenna:

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