Art as Advocate

Art as Advocate

In our increasingly globalized world with an expanding international art-scene boasting biennials and art fairs in a rising number of countries giving transnational exposure to artists; the accessibility of images and interpretations on the internet, arts potential for universal communication makes it a compelling form of activism. Art can strike at our ethos awakening us from the anesthetizing forces of the mainstream to distinguish the Non-Aligned visions that resist conformity and give presence to the marginalized. It can unite when language fails and ideologies clash, producing a generative exchange.

Artists build their careers on talent, perseverance, and an entrepreneurial discipline that allows for a fluid structure to nourish creativity. They enrich our society by translating ideas into expressive and aesthetic mediums. However, they often have to struggle to justify their profession and withstand social and economic pressures to continue to produce. Making art is a constructive practice. When displayed the outcome of this process is a gift that we are encouraged to look at in order to reflectively understand something and ponder it’s meaning. Through this act of looking, appreciation and contemplation we are connected beyond language, national boundaries, politics and dogmas to the essence of our shared human existence.

Non-Aligned brings together a variety of work from artists of different backgrounds and experiences who share the unique landscape of Sri Lanka, whether by nationality, residence or spirit. Anchored to this site are aspects of their identity, relationships, memories, hopes and dreams. The works on display highlight different issues, ranging from the personal, collective, political and environmental and presented in tones varying from the reverential to humorous. This dialogue gives space for the discussion and critique of what it means to be attached to a place and the communal responsibilities for ensuring its positive future.

As we are becoming more globally interconnected we are threatened not only by our own nation’s political, economic and environmental crises, but that of the planet’s, which is rampant with inequalities, competition for natural resources, and violence. In these challenging times there are persuasive campaigners, who attempt to give the impression of security through the reinstatement of retro forms of Nationalism that promote a propagandistic nostalgic myth of society. These tactics to engage people on base levels of fear and ignorance driven by the self-interests of hierarchical power structures that often employ inhumane and unethical practices is not the way towards a cooperative civilization.

It is through the unified conduct of tolerance, compassion, and dignity, the support of educational and artistic integrity, and diplomatic interchange that we can work towards the prospect of peace. The growing international platform for the arts voraciously desires new content and presentations. Thus there is space for art to advocate humanity and the planet and influence positive change. The Non-Aligned must persist in their endeavor to create and we need to look deeply.

Natalie Sanderson, 2011

Natalie Sanderson is a curator and filmmaker currently pursuing a doctorate in Art Theory at the University of Oxford.

Published here with permission by the author and, originally printed in the catalogue available for sale at the Barefoot Gallery.

Written specifically for the Non Aligned exhibition on show at the Barefoot Gallery from March 24,- April 19, 2011. A group exhibition featuring artists: Muhanned Cader, Mariah Lookman, Vaidehi Raja, Lala Rukh, Thamotharampillai Shanaathanan and Ieuan Weinman.


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