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
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