Art is Political

So, it’s no secret that in my last piece on Superman, that I had many not so subtle digs at the upcoming President-Elect of the United States. I’ve also been critical of the P-E on my Twitter, which is connected with this whole enterprise. Also, all of my current writing available for public consumption is connected to my real-life name, and all this is connected to my social media. When crafting a public persona for your art, the fear is that you will retweet the wrong thing, say the wrong thing in social media. Fears that your career might end before it’s even begun. So, let’s talk about art and politics.

A couple of days ago, as of the writing of this piece, Meryl Streep also criticised the President-Elect in a speech that was shared countless times across the Internet. Now, it might be because I exist in a leftie social bubble that this story is more prevalent in my imaginings than it actually is. Anyway, the P-E came out to criticise Streep, calling the most critically lauded actress of our time (409 nominations! and 157 wins) “overrated”. Now, the important part is that supporters of the incoming President decried Streep’s speech. That rallied on Twitter that she ‘should go back to acting and forgot about politics’ as such. Here’s the thing, art is inherently political. And when I say art, I mean all entertainment. Why is it all political? Ask Zizek.

To sum up one of the things that has taken most of my literature degree to understand, texts (here meaning, any kind of media) are creations of their creators, and creators are creations of their environment. I said above that I was worried about being political for fear of running my career, a fear that permeates my work because I live in a capitalist society, and particularly I live in a country where art is not highly regarded as a career path, and the ongoing political landscape often discusses of value of the worker in society (jobs and growth, taxpayer dollars, lifters and leaners). Lots of discussion in Australian politics is occurring around the fact that the current government has consistently targeted areas of the budget that most affect low-income individuals (targeting welfare for revision and such), while leaving higher income individuals (tax-dodging corporations, political entitlements) largely unscathed.

I, as an artist, exist in this system. I rely on welfare to help me through my university degree. I consistently hear rhetoric about how my art is worth nothing and I should get a real job. I should either sacrifice my art or my income. I can’t be happy in my job and have a decent income. This rhetoric weighs on me, and thus on my work. You might notice that my fiction often focuses on characters who are transitory, they are caught between places. That has been my life for years. I’ve been going through tertiary education for around five years now. Some of my peers who got a job right out of school are getting promotions, or settling into stable careers. This transitionary time will pass. My art will grow with me and hopefully be less full of fear than it is now. However, I also think that it gives my art a good quality, a quality that others might enjoy. I’ve never asked what aspects of my fiction appeal to my (admittedly small) audience but if I had to guess I’d say there’s a lot of empathy with the sort of existential anxiety that pervades my fictional work.

From what I’ve heard from writing mentors and fellow writers, all of them say that there is a little piece of their soul in everything they write. Now, whatever you may think of the soul, the idea is there. The soul is what people call themselves in the abstract. Now identity and how identity is formed by the brain is a whole other wheelhouse than I’m capable of talking about but I feel you understand my meaning. Every writer puts a piece of themselves into the pieces I write. I once had a friend read some of my work. The characters were instantly familiar to them because they had been drawn from our collective past. They recognised the parts of me in my work.

It might all be falling into place like a puzzle now. Politics shapes environment, environment shapes person, person shapes art. My concern that my social media presence will negatively affect my future prospects as a writer seems obvious. I worry, like many, that the abrasiveness of my personality (my tendency to condescend, my bleeding-heart leftie tendencies) will carry over to the professional face that I now carry with me into this crazy, capitalist society. There is, however, a silver lining. My work is political because it carries a piece of me inside of it. If I have diverse characters in a piece, that’s a political statement against the homogenization of modern media. Do I worry that this will turn people off?

Fuck no, I do not. Just as there are people who will be offended by my sensibilities, there’s an audience who is right there for what I’m selling. Am I worried that offending P-E will lead to fewer job prospects? No, because I wouldn’t want to work for those kinds of people anyway. Any kind of professional relationship that tried to dampen who I was as a creative, wouldn’t be that great in the first place. I am an artist, I am unapologetically myself, and one day a group of people will see that and say: sign me the fuck up!

Now’s an excellent time to mention I have a Patreon.

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