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Sun Mar 22, 2015, 12:29 PM

Do the arts have a responsibility to be bulwarks of social justice?

Melissa Harris Perry on MSNBC is having a discussion on Kendrick Lamar's new Hip Hop album and how it's such a big impact on the discussion of race relations. Are they injecting too much import to a new album?

Full disclosure: I'm not at all familiar with that genre of music. And, as a caucasian, I can only sympathize with the struggles of ethnic minorities to be recognized as just people, not 'others.'

But I'm also an artist and I question MHP's stressing of the social impact of the new album as if that should be its intended purpose, more-so than just an artist's expression in his chosen medium.

Music and other art forms always accompany social struggles. Songs are written for specific concerns; others are adopted by causes. Same with visual arts. That Lamar's album creates discussion on a serious issue is commendable. But the discussion on the show seemed to imply that artists have a duty to create such a statement. Does that mean that, as an atheist, I have a responsibility to create drawings showing the disastrous nature of religious oppression? I have, but they aren't my primary objective every time I put brush to canvas.

I have no idea why this hit me this morning as an issue. I suspect that I got the implication that Lamar had to follow up with another critical-to-the-discussion work. The implication could be my error (I suppose several levels of guilt of one aspect or another may be a root cause).

So back to the original question: do artists have a responsibility to create works addressing social justice, or can I just be content drawing pretty pictures?

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Arrow 14 replies Author Time Post
Reply Do the arts have a responsibility to be bulwarks of social justice? (Original post)
Panich52 Mar 2015 OP
LittleBlue Mar 2015 #1
cali Mar 2015 #2
Erich Bloodaxe BSN Mar 2015 #3
AngryAmish Mar 2015 #4
Erich Bloodaxe BSN Mar 2015 #5
AngryAmish Mar 2015 #7
pangaia Mar 2015 #6
Panich52 Mar 2015 #11
pangaia Mar 2015 #13
Orrex Mar 2015 #8
Name removed Mar 2015 #9
2banon Mar 2015 #10
Octafish Mar 2015 #12
hifiguy Mar 2015 #14

Response to Panich52 (Original post)

Sun Mar 22, 2015, 12:35 PM

1. No

 

The worst thing that can happen is art shackled by political expectations. If you want proof, go look at what the Soviet Union did to artists.

If the artist wants to make his/her work political, that's fine. The artist should bear no responsibility whatsoever to change in order to appease others.

TBH I don't think Kendrick Lamar's album will have any social impact at all. These sorts of sentiments are started by fans and promoters to sell music.

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Response to Panich52 (Original post)

Sun Mar 22, 2015, 12:40 PM

2. No.

 

and who says that any work of art that is not created to address social justice is just "a pretty picture".

Silly.

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Response to Panich52 (Original post)

Sun Mar 22, 2015, 12:58 PM

3. I think all such 'responsibility' is up to the individuals.

You can't go around saying 'you group of people who do X', you have a responsibility to address social justice that I do not. If there is a responsibility to address social justice, we ALL have that responsibility, whether we are artists or not, and it is up to us to figure out how best to do so.

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Response to Panich52 (Original post)

Sun Mar 22, 2015, 01:01 PM

4. Artists are critized all the time for the political implications of their work.

 

American Sniper. Sports Illistrated swimsuit edition. Selma.

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Response to Panich52 (Original post)

Sun Mar 22, 2015, 01:01 PM

5. As a follow-up, though,

I think we need more modern 'folk songs' that address current injustices. Where are our Woody Guthries? Why isn't there a 'Four Dead in Ohio' type of song that sings about Gardner, Rice, Martin, and every other black man or child murdered for their skin colour on the charts?

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Response to Erich Bloodaxe BSN (Reply #5)

Sun Mar 22, 2015, 01:04 PM

7. hip hop

 

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Response to Panich52 (Original post)

Sun Mar 22, 2015, 01:02 PM

6. Do you really even consider that

artistic works that do not address social justice are just pretty pictures?

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Response to pangaia (Reply #6)

Sun Mar 22, 2015, 02:31 PM

11. No, not just pretty pictures. It was simply a turn of phrase as antithesis to 'impact' art

I'd like to think my art inspires some kind of emotion, even if it's only a smile (or a frown).

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Response to Panich52 (Reply #11)

Sun Mar 22, 2015, 03:29 PM

13. Good to hear.

Glad the Ravel String Quartet isn't a pretty picture.

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Response to Panich52 (Original post)

Sun Mar 22, 2015, 01:20 PM

8. Yes! Otherwise they should lose their citizenship and have their possessions seized by the state!

The responsibility of art is to be art. Beyond that, it's up to the artist (and/or whoever is paying the artist's salary).

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Response to Panich52 (Original post)


Response to Panich52 (Original post)

Sun Mar 22, 2015, 01:53 PM

10. Generally speaking, Artists tend to provoke and inspire "social justice" directly, or as a sort of

 

ancillary effect, for a lack of a better way of putting it.

But I am not of the opinion Artists have a "Responsibility" over an above any other member or community of civil society to be the bulwarks of social justice.

There are artists that make it their mission to try to be. And we can appreciate their attempts and their work. But other than that, I say lay off. The moment we try to dictate edicts for creative works then art and creative ideas dies on the vine.

We on the Left must not attempt to dictate all realms of technology, art, etc to address or fix social justice problems. My opinion, your mileage may vary.

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Response to Panich52 (Original post)

Sun Mar 22, 2015, 02:38 PM

12. Yes, for those so aware.

Some artists do their thing, and that's cool. Others believe their work can change the world.

Life is short. Art is long.

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Response to Panich52 (Original post)

Sun Mar 22, 2015, 03:52 PM

14. No. Unless the artist in question decides to do so.

 

Art for art's sake.

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