I take some pride in not watching the news. I heard about the shocking attack on innocent people in Nice days after the event took place, after somebody on my holiday campsite advised me it might not be safe to go to France on holiday. I felt conflicted. I felt upset and regretful that my ignorance of the event made me unable to dedicate thoughts and expressions of sincere condolence to the victims. But secondly, I was grateful I had saved myself from thoughts and expressions of despair and powerlessness. How could I have helped anybody with my feelings of incapability? It brings me to the question: what is the value of information if you cannot act on it?
In this blog, I investigate ways in which creativity and imagination can actively contribute to face current global issues. I believe, during a tragic event, artists can do meaningful things. They can console with music, counter-attack with a clever cartoon, deliver thoughtful writing or ridicule the response of our politicians. These are valuable ways to repair society, to give hope, to strengthen solidarity. Such acts offer an exchange in the marketplace of emotions: they contrast violence with beauty, seek to turn hate into understanding, give a voice to victims and strengthen feelings of togetherness and unity.
This marketplace of emotions is noisy—loud opinions, beliefs, judgements and convictions compete with each other, battling for our attention and emotional or mental support. Can this violent arena be a place for artists to work and live? Can artistic investigation, observation, attention, refinement and subtlety make any impact in fighting the incredible presence, budgets and indoctrination of media corporations, internet giants and Hollywood productions? Can we, as Davids facing Goliath, fight propaganda with facts, manipulation with good intentions, special effects with beauty? Or should we avoid this combat zone and build our own world, an alternative reality, detached from all this turmoil?
For me it’s a dilemma. The power of art is to move people. To reach out and connect to others, artists should grab attention, reach larger audiences and spread their ideas. The obvious channels are newspapers, radio, television and of course all digital devices. These media have rules. Most editors will share a message only when it’s “newsworthy”: spectacular, extreme or shocking. To make art newsworthy is like putting healthy food in the deep fryer of McDonalds.
How might we, as artists, become a signal in the noise of contemporary information without without adhering to the tactics of noise makers? Is there a way to be heard amidst turmoil without shouting?
These questions are essential and in this blog I want to investigate how we can find an answer. I propose to go step by step. First: let’s understand what art can do—not the wishful ideal, but concrete examples and evidence based facts. Second: let’s learn where we actually can have influence. Third: let’s find ways to effectively share our insights with others—share curiosity, share our not-knowing, share our successes, share our failures.
If we learn to share, we can grow. Only when we succeed in combining the vision, effort and dedication of many, might we design a key to disrupt the noisy marketplace of emotional attention and become a signal in the noise.