Can art save the world? Sources say No, but they're wrong
I'm going to explain an ancient secret about art and then you're going to weaponize it.
Oscar Wilde has been famously quoted as saying: “When bankers get together for dinner, they discuss Art. When artists get together for dinner, they discuss Money.” Have you ever wondered why that is?
When public education becomes a mere pipeline to corporate and the for-profit prison industrial complex, how do young people learn? When fascists want to control narratives, what objects do they burn? What do faith, science and education all have in common? What is equal parts therapy, weapon, speech and history? When history is revised by villains, what keeps truth alive?
There are many answers to these questions, but together, the parts of a whole speak to only one word: Art. Art, a panacea for suffering. Art, the thing that the rich spend oceans of cash on. Art, the underpinning of every faith on the planet. Art, a natural human practice and the breath of life itself.
When a cruel world has taken everything from you, you have only one option: To Create. Humans are creators. We created all language for the world as the art of semiotics. A horse is a horse because we invented the word. All languages evolve memetically from artisans of human language: Us.
Art is a living organism, a historical conversation in every voice, that complicates beautifully with every shivering decade and expands human experience across centuries. Art is memory. Art is rebellion. Art is freedom.
When the human body dies, art lives on. The elixir of immortality is the mark made on the cave thousands of years ago. Our ancestors knew that and that's why they held space for artists.
Artists bang the warning drums. Artists dance to forge community and caretake memory. Artists sing the mourning songs in reverence of the dead. Artists celebrate the living by marking life with song. Artists have healed social wounds as mystics since the dawn of time.
All science is informed by language, which is art. All thought is informed by semiotics, which is art. All faith-rituals are art and intention, married in reverence for the belief in the unseen act of creation: Art. Everything in the world boils down to culture, which is calcified and transmuted via art.
Art may not be able to fill your belly, but if you learn the art of nature, you can create a garden of edibles. You can mutate all art to applicable skills that the uncreative parasite class begrudgingly must lease. All innovation is the work of artists, not capitalism, because all inventors are artists. Makers make regardless of money. Crack open a history book.
Art may not be able to kill villains, but a story of true wickedness cannot be stopped forever and will live long after evil takes its last breath. Art may not be able to shelter you, but if you learn to build, you can make shelter. Art may not be able to cloth you, but you can weave your garments. Art is not food, but to cook a heartful meal is to make art. Art may not fix your mind, but it opens up neural pathways that fight degenerative brain disease. Art may not be able to move immobile limbs, but art regulates blood-flow, emotion, heartbeat and all inventions made to gift limbs are invented artworks.
There is nothing that capitalism has that artists have not always created for free, forever, for health, for hope, for community. There is nothing in this world that you are holding, looking at, and using that has not been touched by an artist. A factory that pumps out products has parts designed by mechanical engineers—who are artists—using design specifications—made by artists—thought up and ideated by innovators—who are artists.
Art can be destructive, but it is always transformative in its destruction. Art is a fire that primes soil for new growth to kiss a forest to bursting. Art repurposes a building of wage slavery into communal housing. Art is behind every motor vehicle, every mobile app, every building, every TV show, everything.
To make art, you just need one connection to manipulate the material world, even if the only thing you have is your mind. Mind-movies themselves are art. A specific art that cannot be leased, bought, sold or taken. It is yours only, unless you desire to unleash it. Then, art becomes a gift you give, that keeps giving as it inspires oceans more artists in its wake.
If you haven't gotten the point: All humans are artists. Some just forget and seek meaning outside, when it lives within you.
When I speak about art, I speak to intention, creation, and activity. I speak about the spark to do something with desire. To discover what was always there and shape it. I speak of freedom of thought, in opposition to a world-order that strips you of the very notion that you can think for yourself.
So, how can art save the world, exactly? It already has, you just don't know it yet. What historically terrifies the parasite class most is a desire it cannot subsume. A people aware, creative, protective of hope, bravery, culture and thought, cannot be defeated even if the unjust loses pretense of civility. But here's the thing: They can't. To rule into antiquity, evil requires bleached civility to govern. And so, you must be viciously ungovernable, as all artist are.
This is your call to action by an art educator who can fall prey to a lifelong illness that will halt their mark-making at any time: Today, make an imperfect mark for you and nobody else. Guard whatever tender garden planted, electronic tinkered, cloth woven or melody hummed viciously.
Shirk off fear and burn your words into the sky. Art is your weapon, your health and your mark that cannot be sold unless you sell it. Art is true power in a world of false might and cowardly brutes. Wield the flame of artistic spirit and watch evil burn itself to fuel the soil of new growth forever.
K. Leigh is an ex-freelancer, full-time author, and weirdo artist. Read their lgbt+ sci-fi books, connect on Twitter, visit their site, or send them an email if you’d like to work together. 🌈 🏳️⚧️