Friday, June 24, 2005

Of Art and Politics

Duane Keiser is an American painter who came up with the idea of painting one painting a day and selling it through posting the image on his blog. I find the pictures quite good, and am not alone, as apparently most of them are sold 5 minutes after being posted (each one is postcard-sized and costs 100$).

This is where the post was supposed to end. Instead, through the links on Keiser's blog I discovered his other projects, and among them, a painting of fighter planes commissioned by the Naval Institute (US Navy?). And that got me mad. It reminded me of Top Gun, the Hollywood commercial for the army, and the very innocent-looking but no less present apology of the (US) military spirit. "Our brave boys." Art propaganda is propaganda. I went back to the painting-a-day and it seemed false. Cheating. Fake innocence.
Of course, Keiser doesn't say anything about the war in Iraq, the US foreign policy, or even his own political stance. He simply made a painting, and if it was an apology, it was an apology of an important instution, one that many, many people find not only useful, but crucial to maintaining stability in the world.
The problem is, I couldn't help myself. The candy-like picture was just so distant from the classic-looking daily paintings. In all its photographic naturalism it was...fake. Then I
remembered all the great (or good, or somewhat interesting) artists that have at a given point defended wrong positions, bad revolutions, morally dubious ideas, adding clear, happy, vibrant colors wherever it was necessary. Mayakovsky, Shostakovich, but also Sartre (all three at one point defending stalinism), without mentioning Leni Riefenstahl or Heidegger (both idealizing the nazi) or other stories of the sort. Today the world seems more complicated, the "sides" are less obvious (though the lack of distance blurs the image), but still, we have Oliver Stone (a Fidel Castro admirer) and several others. And we have artists who defend war, who justify (what I consider to be) injustice and who speak out in a way I don't agree with on many other issues. Does that disqualify them as artists? Never? Always? To what extent?

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Hans said...

As for the other artists you name, I think they have been much more involved on the "bad" side by misapprehension, misunderstanding. Take Mayakovski, who believed some years that poetry may active change society to the better, but got almost crazy, when understand how it got used, how much he mistaked.Those artists have been much more involved, been into the processes of societys struggle. With Duane, I more have a feeling, that he does not care, is not very interested in the political world we are living in, that he had not chosen any side. I could be also fascinated by the mechanisms of Military manoevres as a fact, from a technical point of view, even from a artistic point of view. It shouldnt get immedeatly politcized, because artistic strategy first should look and deal with the subject free of judgement.The judgement comes later or is by default part of the work. Dianes image could be even taken as a start of a critical approach (when not knowing the fact, that he made this edition of 250, and selling them like his tomatoes for USD 100,-)
The daily work on those "minor" issues of good painted lemons and waves, and the daily posted "SOLD" Button are for me much more questionable, than the attempt (if it was one) to start a survei with the issue of daily war and daily dying. As artists life are short, one shouldn't spend to much time on issues, one knows perfectly already, as Diane knows painting. But go more on the uncertain, dangerous, provoking and challenging tasks of what can be made with art.

Hans said...

Sorry for Duane-Diane mistakes, I just woke up, having my first Coffee...

vvoi said...

As much as I would like to believe Duane dove into the "issue of daily war and daily dying" with his US Navy painting, I sincerely doubt it. It is as if we said the photographer of the famous Marlboro cowboys investigates the issue of masculinity, solitude and the relationship between cigarettes and the classic ideal hero.


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