Social Art and Why The World Needs it
By Artist Jens Galschiøt
The sculpture Unbearable, a polar bear impaled on a graph over man made CO2 emission
(by the Danish Parliament)
Social art is dead – or at least it is to the established art world! That is unless the socially minded artists become popular and recognized in the general population, thus working 'around' the educated curator gatekeepers to become recognized. This issue is important because it defines which type of art we see in museums and public spaces.
Artists like Banksy, and even Picassos Guernica, were initially neglected by the art elite. And the present art codex is especially focussed on art which is not too obvious. If the art piece has a specific point, it is not 'real' art - the spectator should be able to interpret anything from it.
But maybe the world is actually in dire need of more art with social and political focus. At least this is one of Australian Ph.D. Elizabeth Boulton’s arguments in her recent research paper which was published in WIRES Climate Change.
She argues that "we need 60,000 art-s and humanities experts to focus upon the intangibles – the communication, engagement and meaning-making aspects of the problem". This is seen as a counterpart to "the global Future Earth initiative, in which a team of around 60,000 scientists and social scientists has been assembled to understand and report on the physical, tangible dimensions of the problem".
So (how) can art change anything? Artists have always had a social function: to question and criticise the ruling class and comment on the general perceptions of the social situations. If anything, it is needed more than ever in the present day, where media, pictures, info-overload and complicated geo politics are a constant part of our lives. In today’s globalized and media dominated world, art has become even more important as a communication tool.
An art piece can say more than a thousand words. In a simple glimpse it can challenge old – and create new - understanding of complex situations. Art goes deep into ones consciousness leaving an image in the mind of the beholder.
Medias can use art pieces to tell an interesting and complicated story in an easy and visual way. Take, for instance, the concert by the world famous pianist Ludovico Einaudi, which was performed in the Arctic on a floating and melting piece of ice. The concert was arranged by Greenpeace and has been seen by millions on youtube and boosted the climate change debate.
One might ask if it is not for our politicians stop global climate change? Well it sure hasn't happened yet. Last year a Scandinavian professor analysed why the population isn't more scared and doesn't protest about the upcoming climate catastrophe, which will shape our future. It turns out, he says, that what we experience is a downward spiral: The population can't imagine that the climate is actually collapsing, and will vote for the politicians who 'allow' us to consume and live the best way possible. Thus we prefer to elect and listen to the politicians who talk as if the climate is (relatively) under control, and the media quotes these politicians as well.
Here is a better quote:
Art can no longer be art today if it does not reach into the heart of our present culture and work transformatively within it that is, an art which cannot mould society — and through this naturally operate upon the core questions of our society — is not art.
During COP21-climate conference in Paris I made a sculpture called Unbearable. It depicts a polar bear, impaled on a 5 meter tall graph depicting human CO2 emission. My hope is that people will see it and next time they hear the word 'climate change' a picture of an impaled polar bear on a climate graph will appear in their memory.
There are indications that art with social and political focus is on the rise. At Copenhagen Business School a network called Sacre has seen the light of day. It focuses on making new relations between art, culture and science. The before mentioned PhD report and discussion that followed is another. In December I was invited to speak at Sorbonne University in Paris, for a group of Arctic-scientist. Their problem was how to increase the public and media interest for their scientific discoveries. The same scientists are now planning to exhibit the impaled polar bear in Greenland, Iceland and Northern Norway in order to point out how critical the situation is.
Art can be used to visualize science. To make boring reports and suited peoples' talks edible and interesting for the public without diluting the complicating and worrying points. It can create new angles on how one sees the world. I think artists have a certain responsibility to use this force to help shape the world into a better one.
On August 25th-27th, 2016 a grand cultural summit in Nykøbing Mors, Denmark takes place. It is a new centre stage for discussing arts and culture and I have been invited to a debate on the role of the artist in our society. Hopefully this summit will be yet a small step on the way for a revival of social art.
Best RegardsJens Galschiøt – Artist, and chair in the NGO 'Art In Defence Of Humanism' (AIDOH)
In the Name of God. - About Catholic influence against contraception and sexual education in 3rd world countries.
Freedom To Pollute. 6 meter tall response to western consumption.
Survival of The Fattest. European Justitia (the goddess of justice). "The man is sinking under my weight. I will do anything I can to help him. Except stepping down from his back"
Galschiot: work chronology (from Wikipedia )
Artist Jens Galschiot+ 45 6618 4058 mobile + 45 6170 3083
General information about Galschiøt
About Jens Galschiøt See Wikipedia:
Portrait of Jens Galschiøt (engelsk) CV (PDF)
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