Saturday, November 19, 2016

Art in a Post-Truth World

The "word" of the year is "Post-Truth". We are truly immersed in the Age of Meta- as I wrote a while back. Post-Trump (only, not coincidentally, two letters different) what has changed?  I guess we're all in some kind of post-truth daze.

Art can be both canary in the coalmine of contemporary thought and, more often, a delayed reaction. The rush to publish that comes after a major event - especially in the West - means that we sometimes get some immediate bad art. Yet, the other thing that happens: some political or social cataclysm makes us look around for the evidence in plain sight. But is there an art of the disaffected? Those left behind by globalisation? The tyranny of the mediated mainstream means that there sometimes seems just one trajectory these days, rather than a series of alternatives. Growing up in the eighties there was a definite alternative to the mainstream, in music especially, which wasn't just a commentary of the times but a rejection of the values of the times. Though it was good that pop stars of that era addressed social issues in their music, I still can't help but think that the plush wine-bar sophistication of the Blow Monkeys or the Style Council wasn't as effective a critique as the more abrasive underground. Social commentary smuggled into clean pop music can end up just being a lost message. If we've seen one thing this dark summer, its that dog whistles have been replaced by just whistles, for all to hear, and clearly.

Pointlessly, perhaps, I'm sure my next musical E.P. will be obliquely or directly in response to our new right wing world. May as well say something whilst we still can.

Elsewhere, art goes on. There's a new show "Miniature World" at Castlefield Gallery which broadens our sense of wonder to embrace the "scientific amateur" - a showed packed with little wonders, its on throughout the rest of the year and into January. It's also Kwong Lee, the director's, last show there as he takes a break and moves on to other things. Tonight there's a celebratory party for his many years of contribution to the Manchester art scene. Its a reminder of the strength of a particular community.

The week's other new show, Artist Rooms: Andy Warhol, at the Whitworth opened yesterday and I missed as I was at a poetry reading myself, as a participant in a new anthology from Beautiful Dragons, "Not a drop", celebrating the world's seas. The "sea" I got to write about is a small strait between Estonia and Finland, and not surprisingly, though written before the Brexit vote, it talks a little about the idea of "Home", and nationalism in a different context. 

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