Are Tyrants Good For Art?

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tbieter
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Are Tyrants Good For Art?

Post by tbieter »

"The arts have often flourished in regimes we'd call despotic. This isn't because artists and writers do their best work when they're being persecuted - a Romantic cliche that doesn't stand up to any careful inquiry.

It's because traditional tyrants left a good deal of freedom in society. Ancient China wasn't anything like a modern democracy, but it produced some of the greatest art there's ever been, while Mao's China produced nothing. Tsarist Russia contained many kinds of discrimination and injustice, but in the late 19th and early 20th Century it was in the vanguard of literature, painting, music and dance. The Soviet Union produced little that was even remotely comparable. The arts flourished in the empire of the Habsburgs, while Nazism produced Leni Riefenstahl's repugnant and much over-rated Triumph of the Will. Whereas authoritarian regimes leave much of society alone, totalitarianism aims to control everything. Invariably, the result is a cultural desert.

Culture may not need democracy or peace, but it can't develop without some measure of freedom - and that requires a diversity of centres of influence, working openly and at times in opposition to one another. Rightly, we've learnt to mistrust any directing cultural role for the state. When artists and writers rely solely on government, the result is at best nepotism and mediocrity.

But the processes through which culture is created and renewed are complex and variegated, and it's just as silly to think that a thriving cultural scene can be produced entirely by market forces. A vital culture comes from competition and rivalry between institutions - state-funded arts councils and libraries, churches and campaigning groups as well as private and corporate sponsors.

Culture thrives on contestation and antagonism, not some dreary fantasy of social harmony." (Underlining added)
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-19202527
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The Voice of Time
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Re: Are Tyrants Good For Art?

Post by The Voice of Time »

Interesting. Don't really know what to say, as any comment of mine would be a somewhat act of historicism, a largely discredited way of studying history. But, I might add that it sounds very reasonable that authoritarianism tendencate towards making people more narrowed in their lives because they try avoiding embracing life in its width in fear of going against the authority, while it embraces life in its height instead, if that even makes sense to any of you. Whereas a totalitarian society tries to teach people what to think and therefore take away their capacity for creativity, in other words, a totalitarian society puts you in a box with fixed size of height and width, a authoritarian society would only make you try going in a direction which isn't of interest to the authority.
tbieter
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Re: Are Tyrants Good For Art?

Post by tbieter »

The Voice of Time wrote:Interesting. Don't really know what to say, as any comment of mine would be a somewhat act of historicism, a largely discredited way of studying history. But, I might add that it sounds very reasonable that authoritarianism tendencate towards making people more narrowed in their lives because they try avoiding embracing life in its width in fear of going against the authority, while it embraces life in its height instead, if that even makes sense to any of you. Whereas a totalitarian society tries to teach people what to think and therefore take away their capacity for creativity, in other words, a totalitarian society puts you in a box with fixed size of height and width, a authoritarian society would only make you try going in a direction which isn't of interest to the authority.
Being quite ignorant about art, this is the only relevant masterpiece that comes immediately to mind. http://www.pablopicasso.org/guernica.jsp I'm sure that others can cite other art works.
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The Voice of Time
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Re: Are Tyrants Good For Art?

Post by The Voice of Time »

tbieter wrote:
Being quite ignorant about art, this is the only relevant masterpiece that comes immediately to mind. http://www.pablopicasso.org/guernica.jsp I'm sure that others can cite other art works.
well the description following says pretty much it all. Reactionarity to Nazi-presence in Spain.
Lynn
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Re: Are Tyrants Good For Art?

Post by Lynn »

Tyrants use art, and the history books, to re-write their place in history; from the statues of Saddam Hussein - which were later pulled from their plinths by 'his loyal subjects' to using their images in biblical portraits - to re-enforce the idea that they are in power by divine right so they cannot be challenged.

Using art to rebel against tyranny can put the rebel at great personal risk, as can all forms of non-conformation e.g. protest songs, marches etc.
The Voice of Time wrote:
tbieter wrote:tbieter wrote:

Being quite ignorant about art, this is the only relevant masterpiece that comes immediately to mind. http://www.pablopicasso.org/guernica.jsp I'm sure that others can cite other art works.

well the description following says pretty much it all. Reactionarity to Nazi-presence in Spain.
I think that I would have found Guernica pretty harrowing to view, even if I had not known the context so it was quite a disconcerting experience.

(Sorted out the quotes)
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