(This was supposed to be a post about my upcoming events this month and next. Click here to see what’s happening. I hope I can see you before I’m back in Kabul in April.)
What does “artist as leader” mean? What does it look like in our world? So often there is so much confusion about the role (and significance) of artists in our society. I have been forced to think about this since the passing of Whitney Houston. I’ve been plagued with feeling stupid for crying over the death of “an entertainer”, a Hollywood persona. I’ve been embarrassed to speak with much feeling about her death, afraid to be perceived as being ridiculous and shallow.
Yes, really, I'm talking about Whitney.
But what I have come to understand is that I was both mourning the loss of a brilliant artist who’s voice moved millions, and the loss of an artist who was struggled with her own sense of self worth in this contradictory society.
The oppressive elements in society needs us to suppress our creativity in order to maintain the status quo. To send this message, artists, those who have dedicated their lives to art and creativity, are targeted. A friend of mine said that artists need to live in water deep enough to drown them. And that is what society does. It submerges the creative in all of us.
The messages that are broadcast in our society about artists are that we are irresponsible, stupid, drug addicts, mentally ill, have questionable morals; and that art is frivolous, a diversion, not serious work, it’s only for some people, it’s stupid, and can’t pay the bills. In order to maintain the status quo, we need artists to remain on the fringes of society, barely visible, always teetering on the brink of poverty and irrelevance.
These messages get enforced from a very early age. Imagine an adult asking you, with pleasure, if you are going to be a lawyer or a dancer when you grow up; what about a firefighter or a painter? From a very young age, we are steered away from art-making as a life choice. The marginalization of the arts and of artists means that art-making as a life choice is extremely hard to accept. We all, at some point, have suppressed our own creativity and locked it away in order to live in the “real world”.
Artist’s being marginalized goes hand in hand with the suppression of creativity in society. Creativity is powerful. And that brings me to my main point: art and creativity are the most powerful forces we have for liberation.
Art can bring people together. We don’t even need tospeak the same language.
Art can make a way out of no way. When people are living in oppressive situations, artists can help imagine a way out. The fight for another world has to imagine that the impossible is possible.
Artists never stop questioning. Creativity means to use your senses to engage in a process of inquiry.
So let the artists lead us. Let us recognize that they already do!
(This was supposed to be a post about all my upcoming events … but please click here for that info. Hope you can make one or two events.)