Reclaiming Art as a Force for Liberty
When I was a kid, I collected Wacky Packs — a series of stickers inside packages of gum. The images were well illustrated but crude satires of familiar products and brands. For instance, instead of Gillette's Right Guard Deodorant, the Wacky version was Killette's Fright Guard, the can depicting a thug proudly unleashing lethal B.O. This raunchy spoof and others like it thrilled my kindergarten boyish sense of humor.
Fast-forward a few decades, and such shenanigans aren't a childish novelty in the candy aisle anymore. Now cheap-shot rip-offs of corporations are supposedly groundbreaking art and tools for social change. As Art and Object states:
Whether you call it artistic activism or artivism, the compound word keeps gaining traction. The use of creative expression to cultivate awareness and social change spans various disciplines including visual art, poetry, music, film, and theater. To make their points, artivists cleverly employ parody or satire through culture jamming and other forms of subvertising — a portmanteau of subvert and advertising — to change the original meaning of a well-known image or corporate logo.
"Cleverly" is not a word that applies here. An example of subvertising would be creating and distributing as art a feeble graphic where the word "McDiabetes" is inserted into the Golden arches logo.
What Art and Object is promoting as cutting-edge are progressive activists using Wacky Pack–level discourse, while preening as if they were brave rebels artfully skewering The Man. In my ongoing art market research, it's becoming rare to find any efforts that don't aspire to partake in misconceived ideology. Artist statements are sociology lectures. Landscapes preach on climate change; portraits must feature hot takes on racism. Left-wing proselytizing and conformity are mandatory conditions for advancement.
The main reason the awkward word and practice of artivism is gaining traction in the alienated modern art world (and nowhere else) is that substituting propaganda for art fulfills the globalist agenda. Like a tainted Midas, everything leftism touches turns into witless and bullying collectivist policy statements. The totalitarian impulse for control demands that all means serve statist ends; artivism is part of that mindset. The Cultural Marxists embedded in our institutions make sure this is the kind of art that gets support, attention, and funding.
Art and Object quotes Steve Duncombe, a professor of media and culture at New York University and the co-founder of The Center for Artistic Activism. "What we realized in the end is that 'all successful activism is artistic activism,'" he claims. The C4AA boasts of having trained over 1,500 artists worldwide.
That kind of mentoring takes money. Their website reveals that one of the entities pulling the puppet strings is the Open Society Foundations, one of George Soros's money-laundering fronts. It's no accident that this enemy of liberty puts artists on the payroll to inject toxic messaging into society. Another supporter is the National Endowment for the Arts. Our own government is funding the subversion and perversion of the culture. But whom is this ultimately benefiting?
Visual art is undergoing a crisis of relevance. For five years, I helped run a gallery in downtown Phoenix, Arizona. Through those years, I interacted with thousands of people. I liked to ask visitors, "Who is your favorite living American artist?" No one ever had an answer to that question.
This is not a poor reflection on the general audience. In my experience, people appreciate good art when they see it. The problem is, so much of what is presented as art these days is not really art at all.
The governing philosophy of would-be overlords worldwide is Postmodernism. The Postmodern mindset believes that reality is formed by the manipulation of language, in the service of the preferences of the powerful. The globalist governing elites have constructed a simulated world where their customs of sophistry, networking, and bureaucratic maneuvering dominate. They lie and perform bait-and-switches constantly, and not just about art.
To not-really-elites, the arts are considered just another delivery vehicle for non-artistic agendas, such as virtue-signaling, status-seeking, and radical indoctrination. However, the decline in influence of the non-art hyped by the New Aristocracy of the Well Connected is telling evidence of their hubris and incompetence. It's a blessing that most people have tuned out modern art, because the current priorities of establishment art, like artivism, are vile proxies for art, and not the authentic phenomenon.
Through stunning mismanagement and abuse trending back at least a century, establishment cultural institutions marginalized the timeless human practice of creativity. Art is older than agriculture. It's as human as the opposable thumb, and just as prevalent. In the end, the experience of art cannot be faked.
Humanity has a natural hunger for the creation and enjoyment of art. Just like our other instinctual appetites, we aren't really satisfied with anything but the real thing. As author William S. Burroughs noted, "you can't fake quality any more than you can fake a good meal."
Traditionally, art has shown us who we are, and what we can be, in ways almost impossible to reduce into language. True art delivers the inspiration to live up to ideals. True art gives the encouragement to think and feel deeply. True art causes a yearning to harmonize with truth and beauty.
The politicized hacks of the modern art world can't produce profound insights, so they lie about what art is and what it is for. This vital means of communication was hijacked, its function betrayed. But we still hunger for the real thing. We need it. Once we've tasted the genuine uplift and communion true art contains, it can change us. In this, there is an opportunity.
Art is dangerous to the status quo, especially a status quo organized around deceit. The conjoined establishment maneuvers of the Overblown Outbreak and massive election fraud are peak Postmodernism. This tyranny of falsehood is an existential threat to the United States and, by extension, Western civilization. We must fight back against these attempts to destroy us from within.
Let art become one of our weapons. It's a counterattack the Marxists will never see coming because they assume that's already thoroughly conquered territory. From an institutional standpoint, they are correct.
But that's the great thing about being a free people: we can innovate our way past the existing structures. The existing cultural forums are so broken that the potential audience looking for something better is practically the entire population.
Andrew Breitbart was right when he said, "Politics is downstream from culture." We need art that shows us what liberty can achieve. We need art that shows how we are made in our Creator's image. We follow His example when our works show skill, truth, beauty, and inspiration. That kind of art breaks the monopoly of thought the establishment holds and exposes their actual corruption.
As Americans in the information age, we enjoy the greatest opportunities in human history. We should be creating the greatest works of art in history. The reason we aren't is due to traitors in high places who have led us astray for generations. We can't afford to let them continue to hobble us.
Renew the arts, and renew the civilization.
Richard Bledsoe is an artist and writer, author of the book Remodern America: How the Renewal of the Arts Will Change the Course of Western Civilization. He blogs at The Remodern Review.
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