We’ve been hard at work putting this exhibition together for the past 3 months… The last day of the expo in London is tomorrow. Proud to have been a part of it, though I am certain that we could have done so much more…
This well-written blog post by the HaikuGirl is quite an honor. Thanks!!!
The question was asked to Henry Rollins, the outspoken American singer-songwriter, spoken word artist, writer, comedian, publisher, actor, and radio DJ. He was the former frontman of hardcore punk band, Black Flag, and the lead of his own Rollins Band.
In addition to his prolific career as a musician, artist, actor, and dj, Rollins has also become quite well-known for his political activism. He has campaigned for various political causes in the United States, including promoting LGBT rights, World Hunger Relief, and an end to war in particular, and tours overseas with the United Service Organizations to entertain American troops.
On October 1, 2011, just over one month ago, Rollins published a book, Occupants. The book is about Rollins’ extensive travels around the world, to places such as Afghanistan, Mali, South Africa, Iraq, Thailand, Burma, Northern Ireland, and Saudi Arabia, sharing his photographs and observations about the suffering, anger, and resilience of the people throughout the world.
Rollins’ disappointments with American foreign policy don’t just end there. He is very well voiced in Patriotism, based in careful study and thought about American and world history.
And so when some politicians say when a hurricane comes through Texas New York’s tax dollars shouldn’t be diverted to Texas to help, because Texas is Texas, 10th amendment, I say “No! It’s the United States.” We’re a team, America. I want to help the people in Texas. They are my neighbors. Take my California tax dollars to help these people. I don’t want to see them flooded. I want to see them rescued and that’s where we stick up for each other.
That is what the founding fathers (who some people like to mention so often), that is what they were beating each other up over in un-air-conditioned rooms in sweltering Philadelphia – that we stick together through thick and thin. That, to me, is being patriotic. That is what paying taxes is all about. That is what you see in great American cities. You see people looking out for one another. When we lose that, we lose the whole ball of wax.
It’s pretty obvious that we’re already losing “the whole ball of wax” when the next Presidential election is likely to be between the increasingly unpopular President Obama and the only person left standing on the right, Mitt Romney. Obama has become not only disappointed many of his 2008 supporters who were swept enthusiastically into politics for the first time by his emotionally charged, dramatic, and dynamic campaign, but also angered many of them for his apparent pandering to the political, economic, and military elite in order to secure small advances out of the quagmire that Washington has become. Romney, on the other hand, is most well known for his handsomeness and whose primary strength as he seeks to be the Republican nominee is that he is not crazy, mean, stupid, or lazy. Kind of sad, that the “Supreme Leader of the Free World” in 2012 will be a choice between a guy who has been accused of betraying his commitment to the 99% and another guy who won mostly because he is not pathetic. For many, apathy is more interesting than the alternative.
Apathy, of course, is not the solution. We need to return to the thinking that we can each do our part to change the world. Self reliance and personal responsibility, of course, will enable us to gain control of the things we can change and make better. But it is quite interesting to consider what impact a different leadership would have.
So when the Big Think went to ask Henry Rollins what he would do if he were elected President of the United States, this is what he had to say:
Henry Rollins on Big Think
I am a firm advocate of the thinking that all Art has a social and political impact. In particular, the self-indulgent art that portrays an apolitical stance is firmly rooted in a political perspective that some people can remain aloof to and abstain from the political sphere of human societies. This is not only not possible, but the direct result of a media-driven and politically-motivated economic model of society, which assumes that the appropriate role for most people is merely as a consumer, allowing the producers and owners of material wealth to monopolize political power.
But Art has a way of undermining all monopolies. Art is very nearly nothing unless it mimics, ridicules, satirizes, parodies, exaggerates, highlights, and illustrates reality. In fact, it is because of its abilities to do so that we enjoy our Arts, preferring it to News, which attempts to tell stories without relying on these very human tools of expression and persuasion. (This is one reason that I consider much of contemporary TV news – like Fox News to be *poor* art and not news.)
Whether it is music, comedy, plays, movies, sculpture, painting, or collage, much of modern art is at the cusp of political unrest and upheaval. One of my favorite urban art forms – graffiti – is an irreverent form of art as protest, often merely belligerent, but occasionally poignant and historically significant.
In East Los Angeles, where I grew up, graffiti artists continuously modified the walls, telephone posts, and billboards of our neighborhood, tagging it with their identities and constantly showing their disapproval of their social and economic status.
While graffiti has been frequently denigrated as a sign of degenerate youth, there can be no doubt that public art has had a profound political impact, including on the fall of the Berlin Wall, the aftermath of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, the so-called anti-globalization movement, and the recent freedom-movements in the Middle East and North Africa, collectively referred to as the Arab Uprising.
In March 2011, TED awarded its TEDPrize to French artist JR, for his project “InsideOut“. In his award speech, JR said, “I wish for you to stand up for what you care about by participating in a global art project, and together we’ll turn the world…INSIDE OUT.”
The prestigious TEDPrize awards $100,000 to an individual to share “One Wish to Change the World.” Previous award winners include Jamie Oliver, Sylvia Earle, José Abreu, Bill Clinton, and Bono.
What I found most significant about JR’s award is his insistence on the InsideOut Project to be crowdsourced and global. Anyone can participate. Here’s how:
One of the most significant results has been in Tunisia, where InsideOut first and JR first made an impact. All results are temporal – history never ends – but there is no doubt that InsideOut has given many people a powerful perspective that they are now the foundation for a new era in Tunisian history. No longer dominated by a single face, many faces will lead a less simple and certain future.
But good Art is often like that; it is uncertain and a bit difficult to comprehend. It is imprecise. It is inscrutable. Because life itself is difficult to comprehend, imprecise, and inscrutable. But that is this quality of life and art – conflict, hope, and uncertainty – that is the true source of beauty, its significance, power, and impact on politics and society.