Uploaded August 8, 2015
SOME FOCAL LENGTH
Notes on the Traffic of Political Art
a diskurso coverage of Concerned Artists of the Philippines' and Planting Rice Curatorial Platform's forum titled "If Art Is a Hammer" at Artery Art Space last August 1
text below by Jojo Soria de Veyra
principal photography by Simkin de Pio and de Veyra
WHETHER for or against the rulers or ruling classes/parties of their time throughout world art history, the products of political art have yet to fail humanity with a lengthy absence. It seems that political art has an almost-unique ability to remain as a historical constant. It has done this by being either overwhelmingly visible or microscopically latent, but always guaranteed of a renewed timeliness, to the elation or distress of the people involved in both its production and reception. And this it has done even as the evolution of artistic and intellectual fads shaped their own discourses on art itself and art as a whole.
But the issues around political art (especially around its recent more pronounced manifestation called artivism) form quite a conundrum.
For one, in the love-hate relationship between art-making and politics, is it a truism that political art against some elements of a state or economic system shall have to play a game of hide and seek with that state/system as the former uses the spaces and tools of the latter's power and tolerance/intolerance? In the former's turning against that very power that unknowingly sponsored or allowed its products' production and display in these spaces (and in tools that usually, if not always, also include the political system's mass media or the economic system's art media), does adverse political art's presence really bring to the table the very questions that govern that relationship?
And what if the state has become, as the European Union today has presumably become, too liberal, too supportive of art's intellectualization, to the point of being unabashedly self-critical? Will the adverse political art of this situation take the form of a l'art pour l'art rebellion?
Some of the issues raised by some political-art and artivist events within the Philippine situation were put on the floor last August 1 at a late-afternoon forum in Artery Art Space titled "If Art Is a Hammer". Sponsored by the Concerned Artists of the Philippines and the Planting Rice Curatorial Platform, it turned out--as we expected---to be yet another back-and-forth of testimonies that reiterated political art's being as old as art history itself---or as old as the history of politics itself--while being new as our continuing existence in the present and the coming future is new. Beyond the issues, it demonstrated anew (as a matter of course) the renewable energy of political art.
diskurso is honored and happy to have been invited to cover this event, not only because it is here able to contribute its platform to the spreading of some news on the endless adventures of political art but also because we recognize the fact that, in deconstructionists' final analysis of them, all art will---like it or not---end up as the political commodities that they subliminally deserve to be for the consumption of contemplative political aesthetic eyes and minds.
And so there we were, and now here we are. And here now are the words and stories behind some people's consciously political art production and art management that were shared there and passed around, that august August afternoon and night in Cubao:
And what about alternative spaces alternative to those we in our supposed democracy have authorized the state to put up? Or alternative to some people's problematic private ones? On this issue, here are some of the mind-notes produced there:
There we are. And so, in closing, let us say that Brecht was right of course. Art is a hammer on each of our moments of existential contemplation. Hit on the head, some will choose to see simply the art, but there will definitely be others who'll admit to seeing what should have been obvious from the start. Is that bad? [ d ]
Pinoy chocolates served at Artery Art Space during the forum's break
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