The Art of Life

The basis of my doctoral project is that art (in my case, visual art) enables the development of creative and critical thought, which disrupts and dislodges binary thinking - a major contributor to stereotypes, discrimination and a lack of tolerance for ambiguity, fluidity or anything that is not considered 'normal'.


Conversely, the neoliberal ideology we are all a part of positions art as something to be avoided possibly because it does legitimise shades of grey, diversity and enigma. My whole life, I have been told that art at best is not important, and worse, that it can lead you 'astray', evoking those base and primal urges 'civilised' society needs us to repress. For much of western history, artists and their ilk have been marginalised: for being different, accused of leading apparently 'nice' people astray, and failing to engage with the expected role as economic actors in society. Indeed, ScoMo, who is rarely lost for words (albeit hardly ever the right ones!) can barely bring himself to articulate that particular three letter word (art).



In the last few weeks, the bastion of western civilisation (neoliberalism) in our country: parliament, has had its whitewashed shell cracked open and we have glimpsed how it really operates on the inside. I say 'glimpsed' because there are only cracks, created by some of its less powerful inhabitants being brave enough to punch a hole in its walls, enough for us to peek through. Meanwhile, there is much activity, using smoke and mirrors to try to confuse our gaze while the holes are hastily and in some cases clumsily patched in order to deflect the questions that our glimpses have provoked. We are collectively appalled, but barely surprised by what has been revealed - a culture of misogynistic power-brokers using that power to control, abuse, belittle and traumatise those who are systemically weaker. Worse still, there have been orchestrated cover-ups, suppression of the truth and victim-blaming, just to keep the grimy truth from becoming public knowledge. It saddens me to know that what we have witnessed in the last few weeks is undoubtedly the tip of the proverbial ice-berg.


Let us remember that the majority of inhabitants of the white-washed house on the parliamentary green subscribe to conservative neoliberalism with religious zeal. The culture created by rich white men is never going to be dismantled by them, because obviously that would spell the end of their status as rich white men. Now, more than ever, we need art to shape society into one that is kinder, fairer, and forward looking; aimed at creating a life that we are all free to enjoy regardless of whether we are a junior female parliamentary intern, a teenager concerned enough about the future to sue their own government, or friends of a woman who could no longer bear to live with the traumas of her past. A part of me is wanting that House of Cards to crumble, so that we can clean it out then build a much sturdier, tolerant and sustainable one. One that isn't white on the outside and dark and murky on the inside. One designed by creatives and more able to be supportive, diverse, interesting, colourful and above all nurturing for those within, and the rest of us whose lives ultimately depend on, reflect and perpetuate what goes on behind those doors.






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© 2020 by Ann Russell. 

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Ann Russell, Cashmere, Qld, Australia | ann@annrussellart.com | 0438410145

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