The Art of Change
Art with meaning - Art with purpose
Can art change the world?
Art may be the only thing that can change the world, because art
changes the way we see and the way we think . . . Continued below
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The perennial independent art movement has emerged again; as always, in response to the times. Born of the Age of Enlightenment – the Age of Reason – generations of Regional artists (for the past 200 years) have brought about about massive, positive, social change.
Today, few would believe artists have the kind of vision it takes to change the world, but this has always been the artist's role in society. Our goal here is to demonstrate (yet again) that art can change the world – by changing the way we see and the way we think.
"The function of the artist is to disturb.
His duty is to arouse the sleepers;
to shake the complacent pillars of the world."
— Norman Bethune*
'Art will redeem the world,' the old adage maintains. Marshall McLuhan is said to be the last thinker of the modern era to believe that artists can still change the world** In his often-quoted postmodern commentary, The Medium Is The Massage, he compares artists and poets to the little boy at the parade who tells the crowd their Emperor is wearing no clothes. Artists, poets and irreverent children – 'anti-social brats' all, says McLuhan. Someone though, has to say it as it is, and this is the artist's role in society: to see the world differently and point out what others may have overlooked – or would rather not see. The problem is (like the spectators at the parade) people often don't see what is right in front of their eyes. McLuhan called this unseen reality, behind the veil of culture, the 'invisible environment.'
The 'invisible environment' need not be invisible however; the moral of this particular story, The Emperor's New Clothes, is that the crowd finally wakes up, and realizes the little boy is correct – the evidence, after all, is there to be seen. This story has never been more relevant, because today, an awakening is happening. Step outside the crowd and see what artists are trying to show the world today.
*Quoted in The History Of Painting in Canada: Toward A People's Art, by Barry Lord
**Quote by Robert Hughes. Documentary - The Shock Of The New
Eyes of Society and the Invisible Environment
Welcome to the Invisible Environment
Marshall McLuhan believed that the role of the artist was to enable society to understand the reality of this invisible world; most of which, like an iceberg, is hidden beneath the surface. To do this, he tells us, artists create 'countersituations' and 'anti-environments', that shift our perception (just enough) that the underlying reality of our world may become apparent.
Art critic Robert Hughes called McLuhan the last thinker to believe that artists could, in fact, change the world. In the postmodern 'environment', the rationale goes, the illusion is so complete that virtually no one can see past 'the veil that has been pulled over [our] eyes'.*
Theodor Adorno calls postmodern culture a 'totality', for this same reason. McLuhan refers to 'the human environment' (the culture of our day) as a 'teaching machine'; alluding, perhaps, to Adorno's suggestion that official culture (as opposed to independent culture) is a 'bureau of information', a 'grandiose system of elucidation' - endlessly instructing in such subtle ways that people are not aware they are being influenced. The Culture Industry: Selected Essays on Mass Culture – 'The Schema of Mass Culture' and 'Culture and Administration'.
Nevertheless, as independent artists continue to create works of art that draw attention, specifically, to those 'pervasive structures' – as McLuhan called the various overlapping 'environments' that make up the world we experience. . .
* The Matrix 1999 (What is the Matrix?)
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