Art and revolt

By Dimitris Halatsis / artist’s statement

Nowadays, there is hardly any substantial relationship between social revolt and artistic creation. And the reason is that contemporary art practice, from the artist’s workshop to the large-scale local and international art exhibitions, is cancelled out by the logic of the marketplace, as does the artwork itself by the logic of its value (or accretion) as merchandise. This is the very same logic, actually, that imposes raw violence (on working people, on citizens, on the citizens of an ‘opposing’ state), the same logic that imposes relationships of subordination, exploitation and individualization of our needs, to such an extend that our needs are transformed into great indifference towards the awareness of our sociability, of our collective demands and our common claims. Hence, society is finding it hard to listen closely to what art has to say, and look at it as part of today’s radical social processes. Typical to that are the constant questions posed in articles published during the December 2008 incidents (“Where are the artists?”).

This “absence” of art in the socio-political discourse is manifested because art exhausts itself on self-reference. Dominant artistic activity is in total agony to not loose its identity as art: to be defined strictly as an artistic work or performance.

In other words, the dominant ideology expresses an urgent need for the artist’s identity to be preserved as such, above and beyond everything else, as an attempt to save and entrench art itself, since it is this identity (identity of denial) that offers an illusion of security within a world broken down by competition, and at the same time produces art’s essentialist image.

In a socio-political project it is important to have different starting points, many different routes. This way, while art is or can be one of these starting points, it doesn’t move forward nowadays to transforming the result of its activity into political action or, in other words, contemporary art doesn’t allow its produced product to be assimilated by social processes and be transformed into political consciousness. On the contrary, it produces and spreads its product according to the laws of the Market, meaning that it does so under the label “artistic product”. In reality however, in this way it cancels out its political character and whatever handling of issues with social and political connotations it might attempt and, most of the times, ends up aestheticizing politics.

Therefore, the challenge now is not for art to become a barer of change all by itself, but to create a space for debate, respectively to other social fields, so that a political outcome can be produced, namely social awakening and alertness. The challenge is for art to loose itself and find its identity within social revolt and within the space of social debate.

AVGI Newspaper, 07/02/2009