This talk and slideshow presentation brought up many important and thought-provoking points about the intersection of politics and religion around art. Specifically, it focused on the important role socially engaged and conscious artists need to play in exploring the human condition and bridging the dialogue between religion and politics on the Left as rightwing fascism coalesces its power around fundamentalist Christianity in opposition to fundamentalist Islam. Rather than simply scorning and/or ignoring religion from the Left in these troubling times, this talk suggests, we must address the issue of religion and find a way to constructively engage and participate in a dialogue that is tolerant and inclusive of religious belief. Art and artists can play a particularly effective role in exploring the possibilities of this and facilitating communication.
"Don’t Talk About Religion or Politics" runs until February 6th, 2006, at Ave. 50 Studio in Highland Park. The gallery is located at 131 No. Avenue 50, Los Angeles, CA. 90042. Phone: 323-258-1435. For more information on the exhibit, including examples of artworks and a map to the gallery, please visit: www.art-for-a-change.com/exhibits/religion.htm
Excerpts from Mark Vallen during the discussion:
"I think that the artist has great social responsibility...and part of what I hope to accomplish with this show...is to set an example of an artist as engaged citizen, or, active member of community, or community-builder, rather than the...apolitical, intellectual, locked away in their ivory tower studios. Too much of art today in my mind is disconnected.... When we look at...the state of art [today]...it seems that artists have been cut off from the historical role of being a prophet, or town-crier, or someone whose opinion is respected. It's as if we've sealed ourselves off from the people.... If it is not now that we act, when will we act? Since the world is on fire, we must step forward...and address these problems."
"I know the Left is hostile to religion. I know the religious-minded are hostile to Left politics. And both have very good reasons. But, the past is the past, and what do we do now? What can we take from the past and rethink?"