This ad has been doing the rounds the past few days in Iceland. It’s been created by the Association of Icelandic Artists in response to proposals by the current government to cut the artist bursary funds, Obviously the govt believes that money set aside for finding culture is a waste of money etc, and hence they should not get state funding/subsidies.
The video asks the question, “What would life be like without art?” And it paints a pretty bleak, almost melodramatic picture of a Christmas scene where there is no art. The flat contains no furnishings of fittings, just bare concrete walls and hard seating. There is no music played and no songs to sing. There is no TV, no books, no games for your iPad. Everyone eats food from plain cans. The only colour allowed is black or gray. The message is simple. If there was no art then our lives would be pointless and miserable. And the Govt is stopping art from happening. Your move Sigmundur!
Now I watched this, but the question that kept popping in my head asked was “Would life be really like this if there was no art?” I mean, do they really mean a world where art as a construct where the byproduct of man’s endeavour of doing shit just for the sake of it just doesn’t exist? I guess we’d also have to wipe out the laws of physics so that we would see things in colour. That’s really not the fault of any govt i guess.
Now If we were talking about the ad showing our desires being suppressed, that this is a world where art is forbidden, then that’s a different story. I honestly think that you would get plenty of music, TV, film, computer games, colour, etc. Loads of WOW! Why? Well, that’s entertainment isn’t it? The proverbial bread and circuses for the proles if you will.
Checking out novels about totalitarian regimes shows many examples of “culture” and “art” still being generated. 1984, Fahrenheit 451, The Hunger Games, V For Vendetta – they’re all about regimes that utilise mass media to supply the populace with mindless entertainment to keep them sated. Silly songs, brain-dead films, sensationist drama books, and of course, porn. They allow some forms of artistic expression to exist in art space, in order so that they act like a form of safety valve to keep the supposed intellgencia from acting out. Even with a film like Idiocracy, where society in the future has almost no art to speak of (because everyone is too fucking dumb), there is still plenty of TV, colour and “wow,” although those delights come in the form of the masturbation channel, and shows with titles such as “Ow, my balls!”
Of course these days we often view that high and low art to be the same thing, and that even bland entertainment has its own supposed artistic value according to port-modernist principles. But even though a world without art will almost definitely be less overall, the unfortunate reality is it would likely not be that much different from how we live now.
(PS – here is an interesting dialogue with artist Mike Kelly on the nature of the function of art vs entertainment.)