Sunday, 16 June 2013

A Picture Tells a Thousand Words

I find politics rather intriguing. That people's views on how society should function can vary so dramatically is fascinating, when you think about it. A range of studies (e.g. looking at the differences between conservatives and liberals) have been conducted looking at just what these differences are and why they might exist. Why do some people care about what happens to strangers on the other side of the world while others don't? Why do some people feel their country or home is constantly under imminent threat from outsiders? Why do some people feel that 'tradition' is a good enough reason to maintain oppressive or harmful rules and structures? It really all boils down to exactly what I've discussed before - everything is subjective, even reality itself. The lack of certain innate qualities in objects (e.g. redness, attractiveness, solidness, table-ness) is a centuries-old concept of both Western and Eastern philosophies and religions (see Śūnyatā). While Descartes arrived at his famous conclusion cogito ergo sum ("I think, therefore I am"), suggesting the existence of the self to be the only thing of which the self can be certain exists, Chinese philosopher Zhuangzi (and others) have posited that one cannot even be certain of ones own existence - as can be inferred from the following translated passage from his writings:

"Once Zhuangzi dreamt he was a butterfly, a butterfly flitting and fluttering around, happy with himself and doing as he pleased. He didn't know he was Zhuangzi. Suddenly he woke up and there he was, solid and unmistakable Zhuangzi. But he didn't know if he was Zhuangzi who had dreamt he was a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming he was Zhuangzi. Between Zhuangzi and a butterfly there must be some distinction! This is called the Transformation of Things."
Watson, Burton (1968). The Complete Works of Chuang Tzu. New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN 978-0-231-03147-9.

Though it could certainly be argued that this still implies the existence of a self (be it Zhuangzi or butterfly), the idea can be extrapolated beyond that point, with the obvious risk of devolving into issues of semantics regarding the 'self' and 'reality'. One intriguing but difficult to conceptualise theory on the nature of reality relates to the holographic principle, and "suggests that the entire universe can be seen as a two-dimensional information structure "painted" on the cosmological horizon, such that the three dimensions we observe are only an effective description at macroscopic scales and at low energies." - basically that everything we perceive, including ourselves, are merely holographic projections from the edge of our universe. I suspect that probably makes more people question the sanity of theoretical physicists than question the true nature of reality. Wait... wasn't this post meant to be about politics?

Despite my interest in politics, I have rarely ventured into the realm of political art. I tend to focus more on the personal and spiritual, evoking ideas and emotions rather than mundane concepts. This is largely because I find the direct experience of life to be a more relatable subject for art. It's easier for me to relate to, but also easier for most others to relate to on a personal level. You can look at abstract art, for example, and instantly connect, projecting anything you think or feel onto it. Political art, on the other hand, has an inherent message and context, which need to be understood to truly relate to that piece. It's not that you can't enjoy Banksy's creations on a purely aesthetic level, but without realising his statements against war, fear, and the police state, they are largely empty images. By making a political statement with art, you also immediately alienate those of your audience who have differing views and beliefs.

Street Art by Banksy

The following piece is my not-so-subtle expression of anti-Americanism sentiment. I don't want to go too much into it, but basically I don't agree with much of their foreign policy, political system, or societal structure (not that Australia is anywhere near perfect in those regards). I want to make clear that I don't hate the USA or judge its people for the actions of the small few in power. This piece was also an experiment with mixing a couple of different artistic styles. The Pollock-esque paint splatters are similar to those I used in my previous work with an even greater degree of automatism. Combined with the more realistic, representational style of the burning flag, it helps evoke the sense of discord and chaos when opposing cultures and beliefs clash. Unfortunately, I made this prior to taking a Spanish course last year and very naïvely assumed 'American' would have the same connotations in Spanish as English (i.e. implicitly meaning from the USA). Please correct me if I'm still wrong, but I think this probably should have read "No soy norteamericano" or "No soy de los Estados Unidos" or perhaps "No soy estadounidense". Lesson learnt: when using other languages, research slightly more widely than Google Translate.

No Soy Americano

The next image represents my view that politicians rarely truly represent the people they purport to. The chosen figures were simply some of the most prominent figures from Australian, British, and US politics at the time. Too often politics is about lies, slander, speeches, empty promises, and getting re-elected. Despite the obvious risks, I can also see a lot of merit in leaders ruling for 10 years (à la China) to allow for more long-term policies to be enacted. When such policies are likely to create significant short-term problems in exchange for future benefits, it's no wonder politicians don't want to suffer only to hand the glory to their successor. Far from an anarchist or communist, I subscribe to Churchill's opinion that "Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time."

Not My Voice

This last image is a statement about the negative focus of modern media. I don't think the news should be full of stories about rescued kittens and acts of heroism, but one of my friends once quite accurately commented when the world news was starting: "Let's see what fucked up stuff happened in the world today." Don't even get me started on local current affair shows...

Tell Me Something Good

There is no surer method of evading the world than by following Art,
and no surer method of linking oneself to it than by Art.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

No comments:

Post a Comment