Art Under Oppression Is Vital

To wit: notice how the following video allows you to feel, to imagine that war could have been…put back into the box (Pandora’s Box?).  Inspired by Kurt Vonnegut’s Billy Pilgrim who saw war…in reverse.

Humans are artists, and have been for at least 40,000 years, painting cave walls, creating clay fetishes, decorating themselves and each other in the name not only of beauty, but even to mark ourselves as being part of a group, or tribe.  Our art may have simply been conditioned out of too many of us over time as a non-serious pursuit for a variety of absurd reasons, but our inner artists are always available if prodded a mite.  Recently I read of an artist who had explained to his five-year-old child that he worked at the nearby college teaching students to draw and to paint.  He reported that that his daughter scrunched up her face a bit, considered his words for a few ticks and asked, ‘But daddy; how did they forget how to draw?’

It may have taken you the same ticks to remember back, back, back…that when you were young and held a paintbrush, some charcoal, some cool and soft clay, a drum, some bells…they were almost extensions of your hands, and your hands and senses created something with them.  Later you may have even found your art acting as a mode of transcending your self in aid of an almost divine interconnectedness with other humans and the world.  Time may have stood still for you in your inspired state.

Some artists create beauty, and want you to see the world in non-ordinary ways so that you might appreciate it even more.  Others want you to simply feel what they feel, to understand the ironies and conflicts that are prevalent in their lives including their ‘stations’ in life, and allow you to know them and others like them.   Maya Angelou once said:

‘I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.’

But I digress, and want to bring you back to thinking of the art that’s needed now: now, in these dark days of declining democracy, prosperity, and safety due the treachery and perfidy of our own government and the isolation from each other it’s causing purposely.  Art may be the single most important force that’s able to shatter the carefully and cynically constructed mythology of present day ‘America the Beautiful and Exceptional, Long May Her Banner Wave’.

Just think of the excellent poetry, literature, fine arts and music that were created in past times of oppression and deprivation, as well as the marginalization of the inconvenient people whose welfare wasn’t even considered.  Much of it expressed the pain, fear and rage of the times; sometimes alternate realities of gaiety and plenty.  Some artists simply wished to record their own lives and perceptions as a gateway to reach others so they would know they weren’t alone, or present satirical looks at ‘the play’ of their day.   Educational as all hell, often almost forcing us to see with new eyes, hear with new ears, and transcend our own rote and perhaps incurious thinking.  To comprehend the disturbing, uncomfortable truths that far too many wish to avoid.

 ‘We all know that Art is not truth.  Art is a lie that makes us realize truth, at least the truth that is given us to understand.  The artist must know the manner whereby to convince others of the truthfulness of his lies.’ 

~Pablo Picasso

We can only assume that he was speaking about visual arts he produced, as well as the late great Diego Rivera; this is ‘Frozen Assets’ from 1931-32, in which he entwined his known appreciation for New York vertical architecture with a potent critique on the city’s economic disparities and inequities.

Diego Rivera,  Frozen Assets - Fondos congelados, 1931-1932.(‘Frozen Assets’ by Diego Rivera via

One famous writer (Hemingway?) admonished us to always tell our own truths, or as close as we might know them…in every sentence we write, every story we tell, in order that others might hear the authenticity or even universality displayed, and feel the truth of it, even when what we write…hurts as we record it.  And others remind us that expressing ourselves can indeed free us of the monsters and angels dwelling inside ourselves as the words, the brushstrokes, the song, the clay, the prose or poetry…because to communicate ourselves to others is of immense importance to many of us, and can be healing.

All art is a kind of confession, more or less oblique. All artists, if they are to survive, are forced, at last, to tell the whole story; to vomit the anguish up.’

~ James Baldwin

Satire is an art form that Skewers the Lie on the way to the truth, both in the tradition of Jonathan Swift and one successor, Charles Davis, whose Drone Court Advantage is quite simply: a masterpiece.  And there was also the inimitable cartoonist R.Cobb, one successor is Ted Rall, another is Tom Tomorrow.  This one by R. Cobb from the past has shouted to us across time with its chillingly apt prediction.

Visual images, of course, are often short-hand for prose or poetry, and hit us before we’re able to put up our defenses, as in the case of the incisive Dada-esque Anthony Freda, whose outraged sensibilities give no quarter, as with ‘(Jerry) Sandusky’s New Job’.

!cid_252BA9BF-1992-4BC4-AA9B-2891985C150F(‘Sandusky’s New Job’ by Anthony Freda via wendydavis)

When we think of oppression and suppression art, we now think of outdoor art, anywhere from sidewalk and wall chalk art to to graffiti artist extraordinaire Banksy (do peek in).  And with a grateful hat tip to MyFDL’s hotflashcarol who told us of her friend Pancho’s current project; from their website:

IMG_9127(courtesy of ascfphotos via

“Pancho Pescador met Pablo Paredes, an Ecuadorian and Puerto rican war resister and organizer with 67 Suenos, a grassroots organization giving a voice to undocumented youth in San Francisco. This began a whirlwind relationship as they instantly began implementing a massive 30′ x 150′ mural on 9th St. between Mission St. and Market in downtown San Francisco.’

More of Pescador’s work can be seen here; his ‘Art Is the Weapon’ can be found here, and embodies the impetus for my post.

I confess to being grumpy about there seeming to be such a dearth of music that speaks to these times, and especially works toward a non-violent revolution, both sociopolitically and in increased Consciousness and Awakening.  (Tom Morello just doesn’t cut it for me.)  ;)  It may be that I’ve just simply gotten too old to appreciate what might be going on with the hip-hop, ska, etc. music to know, as with some of these choices for the free downloadable Volume 1 of ‘Idle No More Songs for Life’; it’s hard for me not to prefer the Indigenous music of the Turtle Island hand drums, rattles, and song.

Even though we keep harkening back to the sixties for protest songs, there of course folks cranking it out with passion, brilliance and risk like Boots Riley and the Coup’s ‘We Got the Guillotine’ or any of the poetry set to music by the incomparable truth-telling Santee Sioux  John Trudell; his bio is here.

And we need more and more music that speaks the truth!  More art of all kinds, be it poetry, painted, drawn, cartooned, blogged, wall-muraled, written as editorials; remember: we are all artists at our cores; all we need to do is … remember when we used to be naturally …

We could even create an Xtranormal video like ‘Quantitative Easing Explained,’ that tells so much Truth humorously that it goes viral (instruction page), or call out war and corrupt and fraudulent capitalism for what it has wrought.  We can keep diaries of life as we experience it, refuse to participate in the machine as we’re able, and encourage others to do the same.  We can make our lives count by refusing the values that the media-entertainment complex has constructed in some dangling holographic bubble of fog that is simply: A LIE whose purpose is to line the coffers of the uber-wealthy who now own our government and have designed a massive security state to quash the dissent they know will only increase as times get worse for us…and more of us Wake Up and Rise Up! 

“The thought of heaven, a perennial state of mind, a cheerful conception of what might be in life, in art (if not death), may yet save our suicidally inclined race — if only because heaven is as various as there are men in the world who dream of it, and writers to evoke that dream. One recalls Constantine (to refer again to the image of the early church) when he teased a dissenting bishop at one of the synods: ‘Ascesius, take a ladder and get up to heaven by yourself.’ We are fortunate in our time to have so many ladders going up. Each ladder is raised in hope, which is heaven enough.”

‘The creation of a work of art, like an act of love, is our one small ‘yes’ at the center of a vast ‘no.’

~ Gore Vidal

I know this post is long, and that you won’t have had the time to click into the links, maybe watch the videos. Please do when you have the time in order that you might be inspired to tell the truth you need to tell, and remain silent no longer, or even to up your game so that others might benefit.  Listen to These Muses:

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter”

~ Martin Luther King

“In a time of universal deceit – telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” 

~ George Orwell

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