We are currently in the midst of massive social transformations as we move from the end of the industrial age to the beginning of the digital age. As the virtual world slowly overtakes what we once mistakenly thought of as the real world, new references emerge to reflect new languages and new forms of interference will begin to work their subversive magic on the old “ordre établi”, whose only recent awareness of their deteriorating position inevitably results in their becoming more virulent in their defense of lost causes.
The transformations of which I speak are everywhere around us. They are omnipresent in the political arena, the economic, business and financial sectors and of course in the cultural domain as well. As such they affect artists, their work and how they interact with society. Turbulent times are accompanied by a desire (a need?) for reflection and commentary on the emerging social environment. In the current confusion and criteria-free world of contemporary art, this brings with it the inevitable confusion between socially relevant art and political art, an oxymoron if there ever was one. While the former remains an all-important factor in the evolution of any new form of expression desirous of dialoguing with its times from new perspectives, the former remains no more than the propaganda it has always been, pursuing its masquerade as something more noble in the service of those perpetually out of phase with the world around them.
Transitional periods are unique. They are simultaneously exciting, dangerous, volatile, innovative, subversive, confrontational and highly interactive for all members of society (unlike “normal” times that tend to be more selective in their confusion). It is a privilege to participate in their evolution. Socially relevant participation implies assuming serious responsibilities that include the need to stimulate the most productive elements of change while limiting the damage done by the naturally oppressive tendencies of reactionary thought. “Us and them” mentalities develop rapidly in transitional times and polarization is rarely synonymous with progress. The challenge is identifying the relevant positive and negative forces in the confusion and in doing so, to avoid mistaking understandable fear for dedicated opposition.