Exploration of the relationship between art and propaganda, between the artist and the change-maker.
What is art and how does it distinguish itself from propaganda? What is the relationship between the artist and the change-maker or activist? How would I notice the difference?
‘Sanctionwear’, 2019, is an installation of three dresses that I made out of two of Trump’s executive orders: the Re-imposition of Economic Sanctions against Iran and the Muslim Ban. The installation also includes the UN Convention on essential Medicine, and three Iranian historical and mythical figures that deeply shaped both Iranian and Western cultures: Mithra, Avicenna, and Omar Khayyam.
It is a cry to bring attention to the impact of laws, orders, and politics on the Iranian population, the land, the culture, the common roots.
The work was mostly received negatively by the art community.
A dear friend and composer told me: "I learned through opera that when art says it all, it is not art anymore, it is propaganda.”* The artist needs to leave space for the viewer's imagination.
Sanctionwear, 2019, by Artemis Akchoti Shahbazi
Agenda-less Artist and Agenda-full Activist
In a conversation with poet and facilitator of contemplative social arts, Manish Srivastava, he talked about how his poems do not have an agenda but his activist part does*. In contemplative social arts, the practitioner is asked not to have an agenda. The artist’s source of creation is beyond the concrete - a place of not-knowing, a universal world, and she flows, moment by moment, with what is (needed). The activist has an objective to reach. This is where the artist and the activist diverge.
Interrupting and intervening
Being stuck is a moment when I have the opportunity to stay in an in-between state of discomfort, to become intimate with my discomfort.
Structured improvisation artist Steve Clorfeine says that, in his practice, ‘we cannot intervene, but we can interrupt’*. "
A rock that blocks a stream of water is an interruption. The stream of water is able to continue its voyage organically, after this diversion. While with an intervention, the stream of water is channeled from one end to the other through pipes. The water stream is controlled from the beginning to the end.
When stucked, I may escape the opportunity to become intimate with discomfort and can use the experience as an opportunity to intervene. However, intervening is solution based, I choose to pursue an agenda. I know my agenda, and I constrain my authentic self, my own Art, in it. This choice is a choice of Propaganda.
On the other hand, interruption is when I genuinely feel what is needed, but in the process, sometimes before the process, something
happens, maybe I encounter fear and, for now, my art ends somewhere before its authentic end.
‘Learning Propaganda, Properly'
There is a longing in the artist. There is a longing in the activist. The longing is where Propaganda meets Art and Art meets Propaganda. Artist Raafat Majzoub says that there is no difference between art and propaganda. Raafat is interested in learning propaganda properly. Raafat believes “propaganda shall be taught in school (the same way math is taught) to enable people to distinguish and co-create influential public narratives”*. The heart of his work is to ‘perform reality so that reality complies.’
When the Artist and the Activist become intimate with their longing, the state in-between who they are and who they want to become, the Artist and Activist become one.
There is no right or wrong
Drummer Jerry Granelli* insists that there is no right or wrong. There is no way to know what was right and what was wrong....
***All the interviews with the artists where made between summer 2020 to spring 2021 for the Impermanence Platform.
Artemis Akchoti Shahbazi
Artist, curator, researcher