Political Art that's BAD!
Hey! Good day! How you do?
I know, it's been a while, so I thought I would write a little something.
I usually spend my days chatting shit on my Instagram stories.
You should follow me: @jamiboii
WARNING: As always, some or a lot of you may not like what I have to say.
But I'm going to say it anyway! ;)
I wanted to talk about Political Art. I see a lot of political work (theatre and performance) and if I’m honest, the majority of it is bad. Yet, people still give it praise. I saw a show which was just okay, but people gave it a standing ovation. Myself and someone who was sitting next to me were both puzzled. Why did this artist get a standing ovation? Was it guilt? Was it because the audience felt they had to? Or was it because they don’t see much artwork in general? It could be many reasons.
Just because someone has made a piece of work about something ’important’, doesn't make it good. No shit, Sherlock! It may seem like I'm stating the obvious, but I get this sense that people are getting applauded because they're speaking on social issues. And their work gets labelled ’revolutionary’ when it most likely isn't. The work usually is autobiographical, “I’ve been through this and that. I'm so upset about it”, and then it ends there. There's artists that DO NOT make their work bigger than themselves.
I’m not saying that they should, but what am I supposed to do with this information?
You had a bad experience, okay, now what? I was one of these artists at a point, but I’m so happy I’m not anymore. Phew. No tea, no shade. And I’m sorry about whatever may have happened to you. But how am I supposed to help you when there’s no solutions or suggestions of how a change could be made? Don’t get me wrong, there are artists who make amazing political art. But there’s a lot of artists who don’t, and it’s making me go a bit cray.
Yes, artists should make what they want. But I don’t think sharing a tragic experience is necessarily revolutionary, my work included. Also, just because an artist is a part of a marginalised community, doesn’t mean the work is great either. I think that's another thing that needs to be discussed. Some people may not like that, but it’s nothing but the truth.
I saw a show by a Black artist that got 5 stars from a Black reviewer and it was awful. It upsets me when that happens, because I feel people are insinuating that is the standard for Black artists and it isn’t.
Mind you, I’m saying this as a Black, queer, working class man who makes political artwork, which is often autobiographical. So, I’m not being a dick, you may disagree and that’s okay. But I’m saying it because I care and I feel that as an industry we could be more honest with each other. Without the fear of potentially triggering someone. Everyone is so sensitive. Like, damn. Eurgh. If you think that a piece of work I made was shit, say it. But make sure you have good reasons, of course. You keep it real with me and I’ll keep it real with you. Jamal, who the fuck do you think you are? You may be thinking. I’m someone who isn’t afraid to share their honest opinions.
Nina Simone said ‘An artist’s duty, as far as I’m concerned, is to reflect the times.’ I love me some Nina Simone, and I agree with her to an extent. But if every artist were to reflect the times, we all would be depressed. Many of us are. I think there should be a balance. And don’t get me started about a lot of art for art's sake work, which can often also be a load of fucking balls! And who actually gets to make that type of work.
*Cough* White people *Cough*.
The mediocrity is real! Lord God! Black Jesus, help me!
I have come across some people who have said that they think making work that reflects
the times is easy. But is it, really? I think it’s something quite difficult to get right. An artist can say this is happening in the world or something has happened to them personally, but then what? There’s always the ‘and then what’? I think that’s all I have to say.
PS: Another thing I wanted to explore was conversations about diversity in the arts. Sigh.
In order for a change to happen, the ones in power will have to want that change to happen.