Alexa commented on one of my recent pictures on Flickr saying it was ’political poetry’. The picture showed some sheep wool entangled in a metal fence. This image reminded her of the situation of political refugees in Europe.
I had to admit that neither taking the picture nor processing had triggered in me any political consideration nor a single thought of refugees and their fate in the current exodus from Syria and other countries. But after reading Alexa’s comment I had to think of political implications of art generally and photography in particular.
Does ’innocent art’ exist? Can we create a picture that reflects just what we see without any further consideration and thoughts of other environments and a meaning that our art might have in these environments? Or are we even obliged to think further when we create art? Is depicting ’innocent reality’ ok when every piece of art could have multiple layers of meaning that allude to current political, environmental or other problems? Do we have a responsibility to ’go further’?
All these questions have been asked extensively before. And they have never been answered. And this is simply because every artist defines his vision, his perception of the meaning of art in a very unique and subjective way. There is not one way of defining the obligations and duties of art.
To me Alexa’s question came as a surprise. And she caught me in a situation where I am in transition between one world I became used to and a new and very different world that I am going to be immersed in in the future.
I spent the last seven years in New Zealand. NZ is a country far away from all crisis epicenters of the world. But New Zealanders still have have an awareness of the events that happen in the rest of the world. However whatever happens some ten thousand kilometers away from them does not affect Kiwis that much. So the direct impact of all these events is quite low.
On the other hand have I spent several weeks in Greece over the last year. And in Greece you feel and perceive ’crisis’ in a very direct and unmitigated way. Refugees stream into and through the country in scores. And politically and financially Greece has been in dire straights for at least five years. As a political being I have been aware of all the events and their meaning for the people of Greece in recent years.
And then I produce ’innocent art’. And somebody makes me aware of the possible political meaning of my art. So what? Does that come as a shock to me? As a hint to change my attitude? I actually don’t think so. I can and we all can produce our art according to our personal feelings and needs and to our political and artistic inventiveness.
I think in the future I will be more aware of what meaning my pictures can have. And I know that the refugee crisis requires political art. It is utterly unacceptable what is happening to people that seek shelter in Europe from unbearable conditions in their home countries. They become victims of political interests. And as artists and human beings we need to raise our voice.
Alexa Alyssa Aufmkolk's Flickr Stream