Meaningful Art & Artists
My senior year of college I was required to write a very long paper explaining my ethics and applying them to an argument of what ethics should encompass a specific topic.We were told to focus on our field of study to make it easier.
My topic ended up being art since I didn’t feel like writing about the ethics of writing. This forced me to choose a set of ethics for artists. The basis of my argument was that artists are responsible to their viewers.
They are responsible to their viewers in that the art they create is taken in by others. It is seen by others. Others react to it and act upon it. In my opinion, artists are ethically responsible to make sure that the message from their art is something that the public can react to in a positive rather than negative manner.
By this I don’t mean that everyone has to like their art. In a broad way what I mean is that their art shouldn’t incite terror or random acts of horror. In a more specific and personal manner I mean that artists should create emotional works of art that mean something to their viewers.
Ai WeiWei’s Art
About half of my paper was about Ai WeiWei and his art. He puts art into the world that means something. His art is thoughtful and insightful and makes you think when you see it.
The featured image for this post is Straight by Ai WeiWei (I found this beautiful photo at robert50photograpy). In 2008 there was an earthquake in the Sichuan province that killed several thousand students at a school because the buildings were not build to withstand earthquakes.
Ai WeiWei blamed the Chinese government for the building’s problems. To show others his point he created a series of artworks focusing on this tragedy. For one piece (namely Straight) he went to the rubble of the school and (with some help) collected thousands of pieces of steel rebar left over in the debris. He then straightened out each piece until it was perfectly straight- to represent the lives of those lost in the earthquakes.
A lot of his work is very politically minded against the Chinese government. He has paid rather greatly for this. He has been arrested several times and his passport was revoked, preventing him from leaving the country until 2015. His art studio was even put under watch, so the government could keep their eye on him.
He also has a great appreciation for beauty. My favorite work of his is titled Cube Light. He has a series of massive chandeliers he’s created that are meant to represent the shakiness of government stability.
This meaning for Cube Light is interesting, because when I look at this massive cube-chandelier I feel calm. It is beautiful and bright and enjoyable to look at. And yet it is representative of something much greater than itself- the shakiness of corrupt governments. The possibility that people won’t always have to live in fear.
So even Ai WeiWei’s most beautiful and simplistic works focus on a bigger message. To me, that’s the best thing an artist can be. Aware of the world around him and looking for a way to change it.