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For enquiries regarding Critical Voices 3, please contact Aoife Corbett, Project Manager on +3531 6180230 or criticalvoices@artscouncil.ie

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Critical Voices 3 - Themes

Utopias and dystopias 

Art in a time of conflict and change:

  • How do artists respond to the post-September 11 world order, with its increasing division between East and West? How have artists in the Balkans, the Middle East and Iraq absorbed experiences of war and destruction into their work? Does the current dystopian trend in literature, especially in children’s fiction, reflect an underlying unease about the future, in reaction to threats to peace and stability?
  • Can – and should - art function as a bridge across the widening gulf between the Islamic world and secular Western Europe? Between fundamentalist Christians and liberal humanists? How do different ethnic and religious groups within the same society forge connections through the arts? How can artists borrow and learn from other cultures without engaging in cultural tourism or forms of neo-colonialism?
  • How do art and literature reflect the defining feature of our age: rootlessness and migration? When people have deep connections with, and disconnections from, more than one place, do they have different expectations of artistic and creative expression? Does this experience of multiple belonging and unbelonging affect the way artists make work?

Re-engaging art and politics:

  • Has art with a political impetus been marginalized? If so, how has that happened? Does the arts world (including critics) define politics and political art too narrowly, e.g., in terms of ideology? Why has the great flowering of artistic work and art writing responding to AIDS in the US not been replicated in relation to other issues, such as first world/third world exploitation, social and economic inequality, environmental destruction and natural disasters caused by global warming?

Censorship and artistic freedom:

  • With increasing pressure from lobbying groups, both religious and secular, in Britain and the US -  e.g. the curtailing of the play, Behzti, by the British Sikh playwright Gurpreet Sikh Bhatti at the Birmingham Rep Theatre and the campaign by Christian groups against the BBC’s broadcast of Gerry Springer: the Opera – how can artistic expression be defended against pressure groups? If our societies become less tolerant, are the arts at risk? What can artists here learn from the experiences of artists and writers who have survived repression in other parts of the world?
  • In the face of multi-cultural and gender sensitivities can artistic expression withstand the pervasive influence of political correctness?  Does corporate sponsorship of the arts play a part in the silencing of radical - or even mildly dissenting - voices?

Re-claiming common ground/public space:

  • As market forces rather than state-led planning initiatives dominate urban development, creating  fragmented ‘post-cities’ (David Adjaye), do architects still aspire to serve the common interest? Or are they serving an enlightened private stratum of society? As, increasingly, artists and architects collaborate on projects, what are the new possibilities for imaginative public buildings?
  • Is the growing interest in architectural forms among visual artists a vapid fad, or does it express a desire to emerge from the gallery space and engage further with the public domain, or to explore the relationship of visual and spatial perceptions to conceptual abstractions?
  • Will the accelerating development of new media, e.g. the intersection of software, cinema and digital architecture, become a means of narrowing the abyss between high culture and mass culture? Could the new cultural space opened up by the Web become an interactive middle ground, or does it serve to heighten the growing privatisation of cultural experience?

Art and the therapeutic tendency:

  • Does the growth of interest in art as self-expression and self-fulfilment for all challenge ideas of the special place and gifts of the artist and the autonomy of the work of art - traditional notions of artistic inspiration and genius? When does personal growth and creative exploration become art? Who is the artist? Does art offer a secular spirituality

Critical Voices 3 Contact Details
The Arts Council, 70 Merrion Square, Dublin 2, Ireland.
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