Politics and Art

Sometimes coincidences scare me.

Walking through the fine arts building on campus today I noticed two exhibitions:

  • John Deering – Political Cartoons
  • Nancy Chunn – Front Pages

Aesthetic politics? I only had time to glance as I walked past; the Chunn works were painted front pages from the New York Times. This is just too dangerously close to the essay I just wrote. I’m really frightened about the whole thing. There is no arguing that art is political, but is politics now art?

I had this debate with Harry Wilson years ago; I am as uncertain about it now as I ever was. I remember the director of an arts agency telling me: “I don’t care if there is politics in art, just as long as I like the politics.” I can’t buy that. I think art should at least make the attempt at universality. However, as Harry pointed out, there is nothing more universal than death and suffering— and those things, quite often, are political.