When you think about creativity and politics they often appear like chalk and cheese, that an expert in one ought to keep their nose out of the other in the media. As an example, there seems to be a trend for British politicians to name drop in popular culture, and often being criticised for it, whether it be David Cameron being ‘forbidden’ by Johnny Marr from liking The Smiths, Gordon Brown’s profession that he was a fan of Arctic Monkeys shortly followed by his inability to name a single track of theirs or perhaps more shockingly the recent Tory candidate for the London mayor position stating how he is a ‘Bollywood’ fan and being unable to name a single Bollywood film or star. On the other side of the coin, you have creators who are criticised for their political input, recent examples including Kanye West’s rather aspirational announcement, that he will be running for president in the 2020 election or Clint Eastwood’s now infamous conversation with an empty chair at the Republican National Convention in 2012.
Although the crossover between politics and art isn’t always seamless (lest we forget the UKIP calypso, on second thoughts we probably should), there is no denying the intrinsic link between the two. As it stands, the arts are the interest of the people, and politics can use this as a means to communicate specific ideas to plenty of people whilst holding their attention. Though it should be mentioned that the potential influence of the arts is not a one-way relationship, artistic movements can and often do, raise awareness of the negativity surrounding politics in the modern age. Whether it be listening to Rage Against the Machine or looking at a Banksy piece, bad politics can inspire good art and bring our attention to a scandal and corruption with as much, if not more ease than it can to endorse a political movement.
In the wake of a referendum that is about as easy to ignore as a firework in your living room, we can see the relationship between art and politics unfolding before us. Discussing the pros and cons of leaving the EU for the art world is for another article, but just searching for ‘BREXIT art’ will show you countless examples of both sides of the argument using art in an attempt to communicate their position.
“I won’t let a poncy painting or a silly ditty make my decision for me” I hear you cry. Well maybe not, but if a political idea or position is reinforced in an artistic piece (as they have been for hundreds, if not thousands of years) that you have a positive opinion of aesthetically, it is a method of communication and a channel of access that may reach people that conventional political discussion doesn’t. It’s also true that art isn’t used just as a tool to convey specific ideas to you with an agenda but the political climate of the world has always been a great inspiration for artists for centuries. The adage ‘write what you know’ isn’t always to be taken from literal physical experience however one thing we do know is how our current political situation impacts us as individuals, and artists often use this, whether knowingly or not, as a major influence in their work. As such it is used in critique or analysis of art of any form, whether the topic is class, race, gender or any number of social issues, these are all reflected in the political climate and are often used as a factor in telling the story of the artistic work.
The relationship between art and politics isn’t a butting of heads, but a delicate, flowing ocean of ideas and influence, which is bound to spend the rest of human existence symbiotically co-existing.