A strong relationship between arts and society exists since the first moment humanity started to express visually the world around us. Artists respond to the events, the emotional state of us as a human group. The more provocative and truth-telling an artwork is, the more response it gets. Thus it becomes a great motivational factor for creators to reflect on hot topics. Visual manifestos tell stories about the political era we are in. Plato and Aristotle first stated that mimesis – the act of artistic creation – is inseparable from the notion of the real world. Art represents and argues the various models of aesthetics, truth, and ethics within societal reality.
Human-generated art has always political and historical background
Opposite of AI-generated art, human-created artworks have social and political, and philosophical backgrounds always. Even if not created to explicitly explore the topic. AI works, missing this component, may lose importance over time. For society, art has value also as a mirror of life from a historical perspective.
Art will always be the pulse the societies. Before Hitler took over mentally German artists already created artworks forecasting the disaster, that was to come. Even in dictatorial regimes, the freedom of speech and artistic expression cannot be stopped. By reflecting the emotions of the historic moment artistic truth becomes an Anker for the public.
Real talents have a free spirit and they always find a way to express themselves without compromising the artistic value, while making strong political statements.
In the 20th century, the aestheticization of politics became very important to support new political movements. The parties used political art as propaganda. Artist created a lot of posters to advertise the new expectations.
Introducing political values to art, by structuring it as an art form to set desired practices as a norm was a concept explored by Walter Benjamin. Later the Frankfurt School developed it further.
Artists often employ art in the service of political ideas to push change. Visual images are easy to remember. They have a strong multilayer message structure. An act of rejecting the negative within politics is essential to understand the core value of politically driven artists.
Political and artistic agitators unite
Many groups of international political and artistic agitators existed and will continue doing so. The Situationist International (SI with roots in Marxism, Lettrism, and the early 20th-century European artistic and political avant-gardes) was formed in 1957. It aimed to drive major social and political transformations. In 1972 it split into several different groups, including the Situationist Bauhaus, the Antinational, and the Second Situationist International. In the 1960s in the movement was characterized by an anti-capitalist and surrealist perspective on aesthetics and politics, according to Italian art historian Francesco Poli.
Communist governments have used art posters as a common form of propaganda to promote the ideology of communism, namely the Soviet Union in the early 20th Century.
Famous artists have a strong say
A man at the Crossroads, a mural by Diego Rivera, the famous husband of Freda Kahlo, is a great example of a political art act. The process and the fresco itself raised big disputes, as it included images of V.I. Lenin and motifs of a Soviet Russian May Day parade on it. Despite protests from artists, Nelson Rockefeller ordered the destruction of this political artwork before it was completed. Rivera did not ever compromise on his political views.
Pablo Picasso is one of the most respected art talents who used his popularity to express heavy critic of the American war intervention in Korea. His artwork Massacre in Korea is considered as one of Picasso’s “communist” works.
The famous unknown artists’ power
Political art played a role in the 2008 U.S. presidential election. Shepard Fairey’s Barrack Obama “Hope” Poster became an iconic visual of the Obama campaign. The artwork went viral on social media and through word of mouth.
These days the street artist Banksy is one of the most known names in political art by creating in public areas artwork with strong messages. The anonymous author of Flower Thrower is one of the most iconic images, which made him well known around the globe. The stencil art piece depicts the man, bombing the establishment with flowers. Street riots and the Jerusalem gay parade incidents inspired the artwork. The name originates from the Poem “Wage Peace” by Judyth Hill, written after the events of 9/11 in 2001.
Even China cannot stop its talents
With Flowers is a part-protest part-performance art piece of the famous Chinese artist and dissident Ai Weiwei started as a reaction against the confiscation of his passport. The artist placed a bouquet of flowers in the basket of a bicycle in front of his studio in Beijing. The action endured for about 600 days. Ai started the performance on November 13, 2013, more than two years into his confinement. Today he works in Lisbon. There One can visit the exhibition of his most important works created during his stay in Europe.
These examples just give a small flavor to show that political power has such an impact on our lives. Artists have no choice but to reflect on that influence of our mental state. With art moving into the digital space and on social media, the best manifestos get even stronger power to start positive change in society.