A discussion with Rory Mullins via GAIA Facebook page:
“So, is it possible for art to make any difference in society at all, given that it too may be only a great way to express our own hopes for immortality? I think that people (especially artists) will fall into two camps about this:
1. Yes it is possible that art can make a difference, look at all the new art out there that speaks about the environment and/or social issues……and
2. That if art can make a difference, it is only through it’s aesthetic qualities and it’s pure seperation from anything except the BIG issues; life, death, love, beauty etc….”
“Dermot, sorry to have to take my usual position in these debates of rejecting the question, but by framing the question of whether art can “make a difference” (which is a BIG topic) in relation to Becker’s “culture as denial of death” model (another MASSIVE topic) methinks you’re confusing beyond repair these already complicated topics.
It’s not as if the issue of how or whether art can/does impact the social or political world hasn’t been the topic of hundreds of books, articles, etc.
I myself would find it hard to make any global statement on the art issue. You might get some discussion if you pegged it down to some aspect of a concrete art practice/movements (art in the community, relational aesthetics, institutional critique, documentary practices, activist art etc) or even examine a specific artwork or an artist who claims/or is reported to “make a difference” or “make art political”.
Also you could ask David Branceleone to offer a starting point from his more theoretical horizon.”
“Well, that’s a lot to think about…but if a subject/idea cannot start from the broadest point, and then become more specific through discussion, then there’s not much hope for the discussion of any idea at all.
It’s both an important and a simple question, and one that many artists ask themselves:
“Does art have any positive impact on the external world, or am I the doing this for myself?”
In this context, the idea to bring in Becker is sound, because his work seems to point to the fact that all cultural activity; art, sport, politics, (even intellectual discussion) are attempts to divert ourselves from the obvious fact that we are going to die.
I am not so much interested in whether art can “make a difference or not” as to what overall context other artists see their practices in.
I think that you’re being you’re usual defeatest self in thinking that it’s not even possible to begin this discussion……”
“Much of what you say is fair. But for my taste a question like “Does art have any positive impact on the external world, or am I the (sic) doing this for myself?” is still too general.
But your question about how artists see their own practice is a much more concrete issue.”
“You still haven’t made any point yet about the possibility of art’s impact! I thought that this would be an interesting discussion for you?
My position is that under the increasing influence of Post-Structural theory/ notions, art will loose both it’s own ability to be made, and to make any impact on those outside of the “art-world”…
There you go, get your teeth into that one…….
“As to the responses, I don’t have a big objection but it is a hackneyed way of doing a discussion. Maybe that’s a disadvantage of doing this inside facebook and not in a more public forum.”
“Well the issue of art, the artworld and the non-art world is, to be honest, another cauldron of worms.
Put on the spot as to whether Art (are we talking contemporary art here and not comics, film, TV) has a positive impact on the external world. I would have to say in these times it has some impact but it is a weak flower/weed in a media and political ecosystem dominated by stronger forces (political economy, mass media, communications technology, popular art forms). So to make that more concise. Yes but not very much.
But if it’s value is gauged only by it’s political impact or impact in diffusion of ideas, then other forms of impact are more ‘valuable’. For example Bill McKibben and the 350 campaign 10/10/10 are going to have some serious media impact but hard to say what impact that will have on the forces that shape the way our lives and world are heading.”
Bravo, very interesting…