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Art and Politics

In such times as we live, times where we’re watching an emergency global existential issue developing without anything like appropriate political response; times where, as the logical corollary of distorted systems of wealth distribution is reached and vast concentrations of wealth are created amidst an increasingly precarious existence for people everywhere, is it not the responsibility of art – and pop music is art, indeed, it can have extraordinary power of communication – to respond to this, at least by referring to a situation serious enough that the word extinction becomes less extreme? Clearly, there is a disastrous disconnection between the obvious searing gravity of the situation and with politics, and this extends also to art. Is there a responsibility for artists to respond to the times they live in?

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Absolutely, personal choice, etc, Surely, not everyone who picks up a pen or a plectrum, there’s so much existence to express, but I mean, artists. Given that there is this psychotic disconnect between how bad the unified boffins of the world - and the biosphere itself - is telling us that things are, with meaningful political action, and with that, with art, and with ordinary public perception. This is literally life or death, for our species and every other, it couldn’t be a bigger issue, and the fact that art doesn’t much reflect that is alarming.


By disconnect, I mean a disconnection, between the searing gravity of the situation, and a political and artistic response.

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matthallslw
matthallslw
19 nov 2018

No I don't think it is a responsibility, it's purely down to personal choice and attitude. If you think it's a personal responsibility of your own, that is a different matter of course. Yes, not much real political-musical activity in the last fifty years that really comes to mind. Madness did a very veiled attack on apartheid South Africa with their classic The Coldest Day, but the lyric is so subtle and nuanced, you could quite easily miss it. (BTW - the album Mad not Mad' from whence it came is one of the best albums of the decade IMHO and could easily make my top 20 all time list.) Don't understand your comment about the 'disconnect' TBH

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Do you think it's a responsibility, beyond a legitimate aim? The examples you cite are from 50 years ago, what do think explains the disconnect between what some go as far as to describe as an existential emergency and art?

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matthallslw
matthallslw
18 nov 2018

Yes, I think it is a legitimate aim of pop music to comment upon or draw attention to current political issues, either seismic long-term issues, or where appropriate short-term matters. That said, I always find it rather annoying when artists ally themselves with a particular political party - one of the major conventional parties at least. It even sullies my respect for the artist

However, it is rightly argued that music and wider cultural attitudes towards the Vietnam War for instance, was as much of an influence on the eventual strategy as the political thinking inside the institutions of power. Bob Dylan was of course famous as a political protest singer and activist.

However, I also suggest, the simpler the…

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