Right Wing polemicist Gerard Baker has a go at “Right On” artists like Bruce Springsteen in The Times today. Burned any books recently Mr Baker? OK a slight exaggeration that, maybe, but once you start dictating what artists can or cannot do you are on the censorship road and that leads to only one place and that is authoritarian control on artistic freedom.
If a novelist wants to write a new story highlighting climate change they will. What may be denigrated as a “consensus nostrum” by the philistines could tell a story that makes people think.
The “prevailing mandates of the age” are not determined by a committee of woke folk deciding what they should be believe. Throughout history great art, verbal and visual, written and spoken , has recorded and displayed the opinion of the artist.
Art doesn’t tell me what to believe it tells me what the artist believes. I can choose to agree or not. Political communication is different. Remember the anti EU message on the bus ? No self respecting artist would do anything as crass as that. Propaganda uses the same tools as Art – the camera, symbols and the word – but in a civilised society the people will see through it. Many are seeing through Boris Johnson’s addiction to the Union Flag for example.
Art does not have to be iconoclastic. For every ground-breaking Beethoven symphony there are celebratory paeans to convention – the lyricism of Debussy or Elgar for example. The greatest artists can be light, comical or pastoral and then tear down barriers in successive works for example. That Shakespeare fellow did a bit of that.
Two people looking at the same scene will see different things, at least on the margin. The “creative type” Mr Baker sneers at might express what they see with different words and fewer brushstrokes than you or me. The poet might use a few words where the journalist might need paragraphs.
Artists are not following convention even though they may come independently to the same conclusions as their fellows. They flourish if they have untrammelled freedom to express themselves. The goal has to be their perception of the truth.
At a time when the veracity of leaders is questioned daily to seek the truth is a noble cause. If the reality is that Trumpism and Brexit were in no small measure consequences of ignorance the artist may choose to say so. If telling this truth is interpreted by the Right Wing as “villainisation of the reactionary working class” then so be it.