Last week I wrote to you regarding the importance of our artistic practices, that we must strive to do what we do as it is not only our lives that are at stake but the wider world.
As if to prove my point, visionary Chinese artist Ai Weiwei was imprisoned this week, and has not been heard from as his studio has been searched, and his computers and other personal items confiscated by the police.
What I find remarkable is the juxtaposition of his exceptional works (the Bejing Olympic Stadium, the Sunflower Seeds at the Tate Modern among others..) along with his imprisonment. His success (on a National and International scale) has not ‘protected’ him. At the end of the day, ‘don’t rock the boat’, no matter your talent – you are disposable (think about this as you survey all the ‘made in China’ items around your home).
Compare this to a documentary I saw some years ago of Iraqi artists in exile. As one woman remarked (my words as remembered),
“People said, (Nadya), you must go it is not safe for you anymore. I said, I am just an actress, I have nothing to say…but then more friends disappeared, a poet, a painter…. And I knew I must go as well”.
This woman was (essentially) the ‘Julia Roberts’ of Iraq, not some political poet or activist. But after a time any expression that was not along with the totalitarian rule was “dangerous”.
You might think to yourself, it has nothing to do with me. But it has everything to do with you. When police storm UK Uncut peaceful protests like the individuals are planning some great terrorist act, it causes me great concern. I have artist friends who have police following them regularly, reporting on their activities. Here. In the UK.
In the US (as here) Kevin Spacey recently made a plea for the economics of ‘saving the arts’.
This is a common strategy as ‘times are tight’, and the arts are an easy target. Yes we should campaign to preserve and increase arts funding, but I feel, as I said last week, this must be done alongside a more coherent grassroots endeavor to increase our practice in our own communities.