“Using Art to ‘Advance’ Social Justice”
Prof: Valiquette GEND 2306 0500296 The use of art has never been too far away from issues of social justice; artists have radically been considered as the visionaries of society. “Works of art, then, construct and periodically reconstruct perceptions and beliefs that underlie the political actions…They create diverse levels of reality and multiple realities.”(Edelman, 9) Art is no longer merely created to be seen and consumed; it has now become a conscious mechanism in the advancements of patriarchal capitalist’s consumerism. The current obsession with the amalgamation of art and social justice is not a resistance to a consumer capitalist society, but rather a key component of it. Thus, who ultimately benefits from the merger of art and social justice; what must be recognized is the context in which these ideologies are delivered to an already passive society, meaning that when “consuming” these images as a basis for dominant ideologies, the motivations behind the producers and financiers must be noted. It has become apparent that art and social justice have become a part of a consumer driven model of exploitation. It has become devalued; it has arrived at a point where its' seen as a work without labour. Through the use of images, we can paint vivid pictures of the conditions in which people live and work, and of their struggles. The arts have a unique capacity to raise awareness of social problems through its illustration of spectacle(s) and the messages it encompasses. Together art, the mind, and the situations in which their applied to are able to construct and transform beliefs about the social world, defining problems and solutions, hopes and fears.
“It is art that evokes idealizations, threats, and beliefs about the proper place of masses, leaders, obedience, heroism, evil, and virtue.”(Edelman, 9) They do so in such a veiled fashion that it permits the impression that these beliefs rest upon observation. The decisions people make form the menu of models that works of art offer them, which are bound to be driven by ideology. Art and ideology ensure that there is no pure perception; by the same token there can be no politics without art and ideology. “In a crucial sense, then, art is the fountainhead from which political discourse, beliefs about politics, and consequent actions ultimately spring.” (Edelman, 2) The images and models that art supplies to political discourse are usually catalysts toward confidence that the political scene is understandable as opposed to disorder. When reflecting on art as a vessel for social justice, one must contemplate the works of Debord and Edelman, and their projections that art form(s) would take. Though Debord`s view on the progression of the spectacle and the material world can be a bit dark at times, he addresses conflicts between that which serve as the separation of human being and individualism, and the exploitation of society under capitalist rule. Debord stresses the notion that there is no separation between material life and the false one, the spectacle. Late capitalism has turned appearance into a commodity. We assign the meaning of "our" existence to something that is beyond immediate life, and a credited to emerging norms in a society where commodity rules. Images brought on by popular culture only normalized by what spectacle allows, where societal definitions are in a constant state of flux. Debord highlights the paradox between art and social justice, in that the powers of the spectacle are rooted in nothing more than the appearance of it “everything that appears is good; whatever is good will appear.”(Debord, 15) “Human life has morphed, economic functions that alienate the producer from himself, and his labour, the economic realm and from the purchasing power.