The Power & Obligations of Art

Regardless of your political stance on the recent presidential election, tensions are high and tears are falling, leaving the country inevitably shaken and millions biting their lips with concern over what will happen next.

(Not to mention, in a nonpolitical vein, beloved musician Leonard Cohen has also left us.)

Naturally, people are turning to social media to share their views on everything, per usual. If you’re used to having a feed full of selfies, coffee, and cute animal pictures, then it’s a bold change of pace. However, that’s partially what these online outlets are for—they give users a voice that can be heard internationally. Sometimes this is a great thing, and other times, it’s just a recipe for evil or disaster, depending on what is said and who is reading it.

Either way, social media is a powerful tool when it comes to expression. Artists, especially, can utilize it to share their work and, equally, to be inspired by others.

Creators in general are used to being asked what it is that they’re planning to do —either with their lives, their degrees, their careers, or all of it. Seeing as one of America’s biggest exports is entertainment and media (an extremely broad category that art forms could fit into), the answer to the aforementioned question could be one for social justice.

Of course, it doesn’t need to be. Then again, when asking artists if they think that there’s a moral obligation to help others through the means of a creative outlet, many will say yes. Having the ability to produce something that can inspire or prompt the audience to look at something in a new way is perhaps one of the strongest forms of power that exists. In such a heavy time chock-full of despair and divide, the artist might not necessarily have the duty to be part of social awareness or change, but they certainly have the opportunity at their disposal—and that’s where ethics come in.

Art and entertainment are a part of pop culture, and this type of regularly-consumed media obviously provides a huge influence on the minds of those who engage with it. Moze Halperin, a writer for Flavorwire, recently wrote, “I do think it’s time to at least examine the confluence of politics and pop culture, and to reassess the ways we address the the relationship between the two.”

Halperin continued to say, “As someone who cherishes art and pop culture (and who’s more comfortable as an artist than as a critic), I think the desire to attempt to devote love and anxiety and trauma and pain and everything else into a work that speaks truths about the nature of things like love and anxiety and trauma and pain is art’s amazing form of proof that people can reflect on their own existence and role in society, in ways more elevated than mere conversation or knee-jerk thought.” (You can read the full article here: So—if you’re an artist and you have opinions on what’s going on in this world lately, why not put your skills to use to get people to listen?

Beyond protests and social media, 2016 (“the year of realizing things”, a pretty simplistic but unfortunately accurate quip from Kylie Jenner), is a perfect time for artists to throw their minds together and produce something big.

Write something, draw something, build something, design something, compose something, film something, photograph something; consider these works by Basia Irland and Bjargey Ólafsdóttir, two visual artists who tackled the topical issue of climate change. (

Irland used her skills as a naturalist to create seed-filled books made of ice from river water, which would help slow down erosion. Ólafsdóttir, on the other hand, focused on polar bears - using organic red food coloring to draw an outline of a polar bear on ice, in hopes that people would realize how much these animals are in danger.

Or, if you’re more interested in intangible forms of expression, Mallika Sarabhai has an amazing TED Talk about using dance to inspire social awareness. Her talk (and physical movements) touch on sexual assault, violence, and water sanitation - all issues one wouldn’t expect to hear about in conjunction with an art form like dance, but work well in conveying the message.

Even if you aren’t an artist, the types of media that you engage and share with your peers are equally important. You never know who’s going to notice and be inspired.

#art #obligations #socialmedia #politics #entertainment

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