by Elisa Ghysels
What Am I Trying To Do?
I want to figure out how my artistic practice can try and make a difference, to change the way people look at things, others, society.
Where Does It Come From?
After graduating from high school, and realising that I was going to have to choose a life path, I was torn between art and politics.
After taking a couple of classes on politics, it seemed to me like society had taken a turn that, no matter how hard they would try, politicians couldn’t do anything against. Oddly, even though our society is made up and lead by us, it seems that we don’t have anymore control over it.
It also seemed like, through History, the people who tried to be utopists and take control to change things for the better were always defeated by either their human nature, either the system.
In 2015, Greece faced a major economical crisis and the politician Alexis Tsipras rose up to power and promise a better future for the country, with or without the E.U. Problem was, when greek people decided to remain in the E.U., then all of Tsipras’s beautiful aspirations harshly collided with the established E.U. rules : If you want to play with us, you have to play by our rules. Greece’s roar for humanity grew dimmer and dimmer as the international attention turned to the next problem, and there went Tsipras’s hopes for change. —> Intentions defeated by the system.
In 1959, Fidel Castro’s guerrilla overthrows Batista’s U.S.-supported government and instigate the first Cuba Republic on the model of Marx’s communist society. The intention was to take the power away from the capitalist and dictatorial government, organise a temporary one just the time to organise everything for the new communist regime and then hand the power back to the people, for a nation that has no other leader than itself. Beautiful idea in theory. But human greed being what it is, with the best of intention Fidel Castro stayed at the head of Cuba for 49 reign without ever having a democratic election. —> Defeated by human nature.
But what everyone seems to care about, from the merciless EU to the US military, is the international popular opinion. In a world where information reaches out so fast and where everywhere can be so easily reached, connected, popular opinion is crucial. Popular opinion is a product of popular culture. So I thought to myself, who influences mainstream opinion?
Politicians, who are the decision makers of our society, bend over backwards everyday to appeal to the broadest electoral base. Ergo, they have to go along with popular opinion.
Political decisions can be made or changed on the sole persuasion of people’s opinions either in a direct way : Tsipras’s convoking a referendum to know if Greece wants to leave the E.U., or indirectly : Emmanuel Macron passing a law making cat-calling illegal after the rippling effect of the Weinstein’s scandal or Obama cancelling the Syria intervention after rising discontent from american citizens who “don’t want to be the world’s police anymore”.
Then then clearly appeared to me that mainstream culture is what induce political and social change. Therefore I started wondering who was influencing mainstream culture?
This investigation is going to be the subject of this essay and hopefully lead to a better understanding of what my future practice might be.
How Am I Going To Investigate?
I am going to look into three categories of artists, specified below, that have been successful in the mission they gave themselves of being socially or politically influential.
My categories are hereby divided :
1. Inspiring personalities
2. Artists using their status to raise awareness, here called "Vocal Committment"
3. Artists feeding into a bigger, more commercial voice, here called "Content Feeders"
After looking into the different ways that these selected artists have managed to get their message through effectively, I will try to define which category I want to be a part of and take guesses on how I am, going to accomplish it.