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Feeling Nostalgic? The archives > Can art change the world?

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message 1: by RandomAnthony (new)

RandomAnthony | 14536 comments A couple things I’ve read struck me lately and I want to comment on their different perspectives and ask some questions. First, Alain de Botton’s The Architecture of Happiness contains this quote about the power of art in everyday life:

Behind wanting to own the painting and hang it where we could regularly study it might be the hope that through continued exposure to it, its qualities would come to assume a greater hold on us. Passing it on the stairs last thing at night or in the morning on our way to work would have the effect of a magnet which could pull to the surface submerged filaments of our characters. The painting would act as a guardian of a mood.

Second, the latest issue of Esquire (the one with Obama on the cover) has an interview with Stephen Sodenbergh in which he talks mostly of his new Che movies. This exchange takes place in the interviews:

Esquire: Don’t you think art makes the world a better place?

Sodenbergh: What tragedy has it kept from happening? Tell that to the 13-year-old girl from Somalia who got stoned to death last week after being raped by three men and then convicted of adultery, buried up to her head, and stoned in front of a crowd of 1,000 people. If the collected works of Shakespeare can’t keep that from happening, then what is it worth? Honestly?


So what do you think? Can art transform the world? Can it make a difference, both individually, and by extension, socially? How can we measure its impact, if at all? What evidence exists, one way or the other?



message 2: by Kevin (new)

Kevin  (KSprink) | 11469 comments i am afraid that we have become (collectively) too sensationalized by technology and convenience that we rarely realize art as a stimulus. to me, art is supposed to make you feel like there is something more in life and to inspire you to do your thing. our society wants the WOW! not the comforting warm feeling of something done with excellence with the intention of moving people. part of the problem is the lack of exposure to cultural things coupled with the daily grind of just trying to live.

You can't go to The Louvre online and experience the Mona Lisa. You have to stand in front of it and listening to your ipod will never fully take the place of a concert in the park.

Art transforms the world through actions of people who are moved by it.


message 3: by Kirk (new)

Kirk | 154 comments I think art certainly has the capacity to transform the world, but it's become too personality and fame driven. There's too much of the artist in art and not enough of the gesture of handing off the work to the audience in a way that says, "Do what you will with this."


message 4: by Jessica (last edited Jan 14, 2009 07:26AM) (new)

Jessica (jesstrea) for people who feel voiceless in the world, art has a tremendous capacity to give a voice, to offer a means of revealing one's world, one's vision, self, & society possibly, and therefore, perhaps, to transform. I'm thinking of Rigoberta Menchu, for example, an indigenous Guatemalan who won the Nobel Peace Prize, I'm thinking of some South Africans, I'm thinking of a blind student I have who writes poetry and songs...


message 5: by Meen (last edited Jan 14, 2009 07:13AM) (new)

Meen (meendee) | 1733 comments I don't think art changes the world. I think art is an expression of the world, of human experience. I think art can be a tool for getting us to think differently, see the world, others, ourselves differently, but no I don't think it actually does any changing itself. We do that. Art can maybe help make us believe that we can do that, but I think Sodenbergh is right. For some reason, I'm thinking about that thread about intolerance and infidelity on TN. There are some really atrocious things happening in the world. It seems kind of arrogant and naive to place what are essentially bourgeois value judgments against all of that reality. That's not to say that I don't think art is a wonderful thing that should be encouraged. I think Chairy is right, it can be a medium of expression for those whose voices would never be heard, and I think that cutting funding for the arts is detrimental to our society... But wait, it not having art is detrimental, then doesn't that mean art has an effect (i.e., it changes things)? Maybe what I mean is that by stifling art, we are stifling our ability to express ourselves symbolically, and that is detrimental.

*musing more on this*


Jackie "the Librarian" | 8993 comments Sure, art can change the world, through their influence. Protest songs are art, and so are movies and documentaries about controversial subjects.

Art can also just be something to look at and enjoy, and in that sense it can change individual's worlds, and make them a little better.

But art in itself can't rescue us from barbarity. We have to do that ourselves.


message 7: by Leslie (new)

Leslie | 777 comments I do think art changes the world, but usually in small incremental ways, and even if though it does change the world, it doesn't change all of it for every person, like the girl that Anthony mentioned. No art changed her world, that's for sure. Making art is healing, partaking of art of illuminating and being surrounded by art is uplifting. So if individual people are little by little being healed, illuminated and uplifted, how could the world remain the same?


message 8: by Meen (new)

Meen (meendee) | 1733 comments I heard this on NPR this morning and thought about our conversation here.

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/st...

They don't have the text up yet, so you'll have to listen, but it's about whether or not the U.S. should have a Cabinet level cultural post and department. Thoughts?


message 9: by Leslie (new)

Leslie | 777 comments It's a good question--seems like there are pros and cons--I didn't listen to the npr thing-just pondering the question. If the government tries to exert control over content--that would be really bad. If it somehow promotes and funds art, that would be really good. I'm always a little suspicious of government involvement. They set the rules the "game" is played by once they get involved.


message 10: by Meen (new)

Meen (meendee) | 1733 comments The piece was talking about how all the other countries have ministries of culture and whenever there's like an international meeting of all those ministers, the US doesn't have anybody to send, so it usually ends up being someone from like the NEA or something, but not anyone with any official power.


message 11: by Jessica (new)

Jessica (jesstrea) I am all FOR it. I was sent a petition to sign; if anyone is interested, let me know and I'll forward it to you.


message 12: by Danielle (new)

Danielle (dreamelis) | 53 comments I'm much more suspicious of government involvement now than I was before the current (/almost former) administration.

I do think art can change the world. I agree with Leslie that the change is incremental and usually not fully penetrant. But I think literature is actually a great example. The literature of any given time period reflects the current cultural and social mores and taboos, as well as concerns and central matters of conflict. Anyone exposed to these issues is forced to consider them and form an opinion. That's a frist step toward change, at the very least. I think a similar argument could be made about all art forms, but literature may get its points across more directly than most.

So I think art is extremely important and I think it would be fantastic if the government were able to promote it, but I'm afraid of what else the government might do to it. I think that any administration with control over any given aspect of life in the country over which it presides will inevitably feel a sense of obligation to act as a guide in that arena, regardless of its initial intentions.


message 13: by Leslie (new)

Leslie | 777 comments I've read many times that Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe is part of why the civil war happened, and that when Lincoln met her he said something like, well, this is the little lady that started the big war. That's a very dramatic example of art changing the world, it's not usually so "out there".


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