Anish Kapoor on Ai Weiwei and the art world's need for a "singular voice" on freedom of expression

In discussing his support for Ai Weiwei earlier this year -- he dedicated his sculpture Leviathan to the then-imprisoned Chinese artist and withdrew from a show in Beijing -- Anish Kapoor hits on a point I've been making for years: That part of the power art has in the realm of politics and social justice comes from its ambiguity. That is, because art is difficult to define, it's harder to dismiss as mere protest.

Says Kapoor:
An art work can be nebulous in relation to the politics of its situation. It can indicate a discomfort without actually articulating it and therefore it’s much harder to pin down. It’s much harder to say: ‘This is subversive.’ It’s hard to define what subversive is –– especially in contemporary language and contemporary visual culture. Ai Weiwei, in that sense, is somewhat more articulated towards a series of events — noting down the number of people killed by corruption and maladministration, or collecting and making monuments with marbled doors of all the houses that have been knocked down and land that’s been taken away from the so-called squatters. It’s still nebulous though. If you look at the work it’s just a bunch of marbled doors. It doesn’t obviously say what we infer from it. Though we know what to infer of course.
He also is critical of the art world for its lack of unity on human rights issues:
The art world is extremely fragmented. It is a place that’s also infiltrated by money and other instruments of influence. And it never finds itself in a place where it can shout. I think we need to learn how to do that and find a way to have singular voices. Through the whole period of Soviet repression of artists, which was severe, the art world didn’t say a thing. The avant-garde has held itself away from human rights. It’s been a great struggle for artists of non-European origin. It’s been a great struggle for women artists, quite contrary to the sense that the aesthetic world is an open forum –– it isn’t. It’s extremely doctrinaire and extremely partisan. And I think those battles are still being fought. So it’s not surprising at one level anyway.
I can only explain it by [the fact that] these old instruments of power in the art world are generally male and white, and within a certain aesthetic tradition. All of that has begun to fall apart in the last decade or so. We still haven’t got to the point where, if you like, lone, outsider voices can be properly heard.

No comments: