I am somewhat worried about writing this post, as I understand I might sound slightly out of sync with the rest of the world. Yet it’s something I need to address, as I believe I have some experience in this matter. Let me recap: when I started doing political Art, in the 1980s, I was considered hopelessly unfashionable and uncool. Radiogladio (which is the apex of my first phase as radio artist) was “no copyright” in 1989, when the vast majority of people did not know what I was talking about – and considered the idea very stupid. In the 1990s I was involved in the musical movement that spawned from the original italian Hip Hop wave – of which I was a very eccentric, and political, figure. When I began to operate in the international Radio Art circuit, most of my work had a political angle. Since 1996 I write for an italian music magazine, and much of my writing could be also described as political. More recently, my work as lecturer, and Rock’n’roll anthropologist, is intensely political – not to mention my research on Amateur Pornography.
When I say political, I don’t mean left/right. Most of my work is about change: in the way we think, buy, behave, love, consider things, approach art, and so on. I believe this is an essential aspect of what I do, and it’s certainly one of the reasons I do it.
Since a couple of years, I keep coming across curators, galleries and even museums calling for artists to work on “political” issues, such as climate change, global warming, pollution, migrants, gender issues (plus some local stuff, like the Mafia in Italy), etc. While I consider all these to be very crucial challenges for humanity, I find this kind of “political” Art somewhat awkward. First of all because it almost always tells me things I know, often using a patronizing language. Also, the poetic (one could say artistic) devices are often very lame: it’s difficult to be witty when you talk about death (unless you’re Damien Hirst); it’s much easier to play on people’s basic emotions. Unfortunately, it really bothers me when Art that tells me how I should feel*. On top of all this, the final pieces almost always feel like Art that curators would make. No disrespect, I understand that a show about global warming will attract more audience to your gallery, and will allow you (and the critics that will write about it) to feel you’re involved, but I find it wrong.
If artists want to produce work about the state of the planet, they are welcome – and they really should**. But when they feel they have to, that it would be a smart move, as it seems a topic curators and critics like (and buy) so much, then I object.