About art and politics

To speak about politics in art forces me to summarise very briefly the most important historical events of the past two decades in order to define my own stance.
Up until the fall of Berlin Wall, in 1989, the world was divided in two ideological spaces clearly defined. Those spaces not only affected economy and government, but also determined the artistic and intellectual production of those working in the art world. During Cold War time, it was easier to establish a clear border between “left” and “right” and also different political shades within those extremes. The fall of the Berlin wall modified substantially the way in which people defined themselves in political terms. Artists underwent that change too. However, the fact that this has happened, does not mean that politics has disappeared from the artistic scene. Even if the artist does not have a well-defined stance towards political issues, he cannot escape the environment he lives in, and if he considers himself to be ‘apolitical’ he is already defining a way of facing reality.
Nevertheless, I believe that the 9/11 has caused a clear change in attitude towards reality and reopened the question of the artist’s political responsibility. Thus, if the fall of Berlin Wall generated an ideological vacuum and allowed for the “channelling” of content in the arts, this situation changes again after the Twin Towers attack. I believe that after that moment an art which is completely detached from political affairs is no longer possible, even if this reality is no longer perceived in ideological terms or as a dichotomy between good and evil.
It remains, of course, the question of what art is, something that has led artists and thinkers to lengthy explanations. Art can be seen as a source of entertainment, a search for answers, an interpretation of reality, an attempt to modify reality by making the audience think. Maybe art is all that, and also a few more and a few less things.
I do not agree with the common statement according to which art poses questions but gives no answers: art is to my understanding a search for answers, at least on a personal level, never mind if it is from a formal, theoretical or social perspective. That it poses new questions for authors and, especially, for audiences, does not contradict the fact that the work is also an answer: a particular, personal and very subjective one, but an answer nonetheless. Entertainment is not a very happy word, but art is also a generator of joy, with all the sacrifices, doubts and fights it implies. I do not believe that art is able to change reality nor that it has the right to change it, but I do think that it is able to produce new points of view.
My artistic work emerges from “free association”. The first stages of composition are triggered by free association of ideas or recent readings. I develop later a philosophical investigation, a rational research. In the end it is “free association” again which takes the final decisions both formal and theoretical. It is a “come and go” process between different levels of thought, a constant exchange of view­points.
In that sense, all my oeuvre, not only my current video work, but also my drawings and initial installations, revolve around a constant motif: violence. Political repression, war, dictatorship, terror, manifest continuously in my pieces either in a hidden or an explicit way. They act as the Ariadne’s thread that gives my work a conceptual unity. At the same time, I aim at reconstructing an alleged reality that I can only know by intuition. My work is an attempt to depict the face of a violent situation which, most of the times, is lacking. The images of these situations that we normally know — some published by the press, not so many provided by TV — have only trivialised reality or saturated the spectator, without providing him a real piece of information. To reconstruct a fragmented reality, between fiction and reality, imagination and history is what I try to attain in my work. Images show an anonymous universe, which is always the universe of repression. In that sense I can state that my work is political.
I believe that the artist should be someone who perceives reality and, at times, anticipates circumstances, or at least that makes them stand out. The artist must be responsible for his discourse and take charge of it. I take charge of mine as far as I defend it, argue about my position and do not deny it. I do not consider beforehand the audience’s conclusion and judgments regar­ding myself but regarding my work, since it is the work the one that continues the discourse and not me. In addition, I am an artist of this time and my art is nurtured by it. Not only because it is this time which has provided me with the adequate means to express myself, but also because it continuously feeds me thematically. I return to what I mentioned above. The topic of violence ‘chases’ me. Violence in all possible senses: political and domestic oppression, war, dictatorships. Situations that are sinister or disquieting, but always based on reality.
However, there is a historical movement that influences me: the Baroque. Not its themes but its formal expression, the rhetorical tropes: metaphor, allegory and above all the mise en scène, a dramatization of a scene resorting to the use of diagonals, close-ups out of focus. The election of this language is conscious and therefore an essential part of the work. This can be seen also from a political viewpoint: I do not know if the intention is to make man think, but to make man ‘feel’, to set him into a fictive dramatic space, to make him identify with what he is seeing and therefore to engage with him. The level of engagement of each one and the subsequent actions are almost intimate aspects of every person. But I strive for an intelligent audience which is able to see. Anyone can do it, only patience is needed, and the will to do so. And an artist can provide that to an audience: a space where patience, will and sensibility grow.
Héctor Solari, 2011
Translation: Carlos Fernández López

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