Why Art Has To Be Political

We’ve all heard people ask why everything nowadays has to be made political. Why can’t art just be a form of escapism? Why can’t it just be fun? It’s something that I’ve been asked and have had to explain for a long time. As an actress, director, and producer at Blaqq Productions, I’ve been wanting to highlight narratives and stories from those largely ignored by Hollywood.

These questions have been surrounding art and all its facets for centuries. There are individuals who wanted to separate identity totally from art to those who create with a purpose of bringing certain issues to light. Art has always been a space of great controversy and it makes sense that being political is part of the controversy. However, regardless of whether the art was inherently political or not, most art is remembered as having political ramifications.

Photo by Ed Robertson on Unsplash

When looking back at art we remember it in conjunction with society at the time. Part of what was so revolutionary about Hemingway for instance are the steps he took to create accessible narratives. Hemingway was inherently trying to fight classism and pointing to the elitism within the world of literature at the time. On the other hand, Vincent Van Goh is also remembered for the way he incorporated his mental health into his painting as well as the styles and types of paintings he created. Both of these examples prove that art is always going to be politicized because of its connection to the art sphere and society at any given time. Art reflects society at the time, what they were choosing to ignore, what conversations were being had, whose voices were being listened to, and more.

So Why Does it Have to Be Explicitly Political Now

I know there are many people that go to certain shows, movies, books, or paintings, to escape the current state of the world. I do that too. Sometimes it all gets to be too much and I just need to take a second and watch something else, be somewhere else, be someone else.

I think that art is a great place to find that comfort, warmth, and joy. However, the act of escapism is political in and of itself. For instance, you might choose to play a video game in order to escape the world for a little bit. I know a lot of people love playing animal crossing. It’s a fun game that’s wholesome and comforting. However, what makes this game comforting. You could see it as an escape from capitalism, individualism, and societal norms. It’s a space that you build for the collective, where you get to play with so many ideas that don’t usually see the light of day in current society. That game, while seen by many as a wholesome, fun experience, is also inherently political. Another example is a short sketch I wrote that is meant to be a part of a larger project, called “The Millennial Sketch Show” and a large part of it, while is absurd and meant to be funny,it also points to issues within society. Escapism and political issues don’t really exist separately,

Photo by Sara Kurfeß on Unsplash

Moreover, with the current state of the world, we need more art to be explicit with their politics. Art is not just a space of comfort but also one of radical uncomfort. It should teach you things about yourself, your world, and challenge the current system. Art and the like should always strive to expand one’s world view. Take the film, Pan’s Labyrinth. It’s a film of horror, wonder, and fantasy. However, the whole point of the movie is to show that for the protagonist a world of supernatural horror was easier to live in than that of the Spanish Civil War. This film tells an important story about history and the reality of war.

It’s important for art to do this work. To be a place where people can learn and can actually expand their point of view beyond that which they are comfortable with. Art has the capacity to change a lot of minds, to teach, and also to help others heal. Art is political. It always has been. We need that energy now more than ever. We need to work on creating a space where we can learn, ask questions, and prompt ourselves to do research as well as a space where we can grow as a community.

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