I was writing an essay about socially engaged arts when I stumbled into an article about new directions in agriculture. Agriculture!?
Yes, and the main themes struck a chord and made me realise that this impulse towards renewal is present not just in the arts, but in all areas of life. And that the arts are not separate from the food system, and the food system and arts are not separate from healthcare, etc.
In this time where many of us are letting go of old ways of thinking about the arts and our roles as artists, there are countless new initiatives, but as yet no real new framework to step into.
But one thing is becoming clear, to renew the artist’s role we have to expand beyond it.
My sense of where the artist role is going is toward an integrated function within a resilient, sustainable society. And perhaps as well, as visionaries for how that society could look, and multidisciplinary practitioners for bringing that society into being.
Back to the agriculture article (Why we need to re-think the world from first principles -and start with farming by Colin Tudge, seen in the first issue of the SKGR journal, January 2011), I think we could start anywhere and re-think the world, and we would find the same principles running through every area in need of renewal. Tudge starts with farming.
Agriculture has become a business.
Instead of having as its goal providing good food for everyone and enriching the Earth as part of this process, the emphasis is on making money, maximising turnover, and doing it fast.
The fact that the Earth’s ecosystems are being destroyed in the process, huge quantities of oil are needed to produce food, the agro-chemicals are causing disease, the industrially produced foods are causing disease, indigenous people are being exploited, etc are not relevant to those in power. Ethical values become compromised or disappear altogether and scientists are paid to do research to uphold this system.
If a researcher, journalist, ecologist, or anyone comes up with suggestions for creating more sustainable solutions, she is sidelined, and ridiculed.
This corruption can be traced, too, to our education system which is locked into the same vicious circle of producing the kind of people to keep the system going rather than creative thinkers who challenge and change it.
continued in part 2