Artizenship rage

Artizenship, Part 5: The Revolution Will Not Be Mod-Podged

Dec. 23, 2014 | Jeremy Benson

Artizenship, Part 5: The Revolution Will Not Be Mod-Podged
 
My intent in this edition of Artizenship is to propose that being an engaged citizen of an arts community might also include being engaged within a civic, corporate community. I’ve mentioned voting, as an example and metaphor, and I’ve suggested becoming a member of a government body, but I also want to get at those times when formally sanctioned participation loses effectiveness, when a body of citizens must invoke its other constitutional rights. How does an artist-citizen flex her right to petition and assemble, with peace and creativity? How does anyone show anger, outrage—and love, and creativity?
 
That’s what I want to discuss. But I want to be careful about writing to you—especially when it’s so easy to sound like I’m preaching—while I’m still working it out for myself.
 
Historical Relevance
A few years ago my uncle asked me if I was the kind of person who attends protests. We were at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, viewing a collection of Danny Lyon photographs taken at sit-ins and marches led by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in the 1960s.
 
I didn’t have an answer for him—I want to be. I want to believe that I’m the kind of person who stands up to injustice, who would fight for his right to marry his partner (congrats!).
 
But I’ve always been skeptical of large, bureaucratic movements, and cautious about bukly, angry groups. I’m afraid to get swept up in that uncontrollable wave of panic and adrenaline; I’m afraid to lose my Self in the crowd.
 
Civic Duty
As artists we’re often given the duty to document and unveil, as Danny Lyon did, the events of our society. Which is a lot of pressure. Somehow—to me—a poem or a silly illustration does not seem like action enough.
 
So this question must be asked: how do I protest injustice, how should I publically mourn a series of tragedies in a way that is true to myself, true to history, true to the community, and which will, in its own way, at its own pace, provoke change for the better? (How do you answer these questions? What questions do you ask yourself?)
 
That is where I am at. Something will come to me. Have you thought of anything? Maybe if we lie here long enough…
 
Meanwhile
Do you have any New Year’s Resolutions? Any New Year’s Revolutions? I’m still working on mine.

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