Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Beat the Clock

Calling all artists: The climate movement needs you!

"Throughout history, artists have joined forces with political movements to battle injustice and demand a better and more beautiful world. Picasso's "Guernica" captured the horrors of the German bombing of civilians in 1937. "Solidarity Forever," "We Shall Overcome," and "Give Peace a Chance" expressed the optimism and power of the labor, civil rights, and peace movements. Delacroix's "Liberty Leading the People" embodied the utopian fervor of the French Revolution. Shepard Fairey's Obama "Hope" silkscreen during the 2008 election captured America's yearning for a more visionary politics.

Great upheavals demand great art. And now humanity faces the gravest of threats: climate change. The climate clock ticks ominously onward, but thus far we have been unable to marshal what Bill McKibben and Naomi Klein describe as the "bodies, passion, and creativity" required to avert impending economic and environmental disaster...

McKibben, the founder of 350.org, is one of the few climate activists thinking seriously about the relationship between art, activism and social change. He views artists as "antibodies of the cultural bloodstream" and key to social movement vitality:

[Artists] sense trouble early, and rally to isolate and expose and defeat it, to bring to bear the human power for love and beauty and meaning against the worst results of carelessness and greed and stupidity. So when art both of great worth, and in great quantities, begins to cluster around an issue, it means that civilization has identified it finally as a threat. Artists and scientists perform this function most reliably; politicians are a lagging indicator.

In its finest moments, art reveals our shared experience of pain and struggle, letting us know we are not alone. As Theodore Dreiser observed in 1917, "Art is the stored honey of the human soul, gathered on wings of misery and travail." It has the ability to transform politics from a dry to a celebratory affair, using tools of laughter, sexuality, and beauty to coax people to cultural events where they experience, often for the first time, the power of social solidarity and political awakening. Art can help us digest and make sense of what is happening in our world -- a process essential for spurring political action..."


accessed Tuesday 17 May 2011

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