Art & Democracy: Leaves On The Same Branch

by Awais Leghari

If an ‘artist’ creates a spectacle that goes unacknowledged, then is his ‘creation’ art? This begs another question: what do we mean by ‘art’?

The definition cannot be specific. The perception of expressions and creations are subjective, and so what we choose to label something as ‘art’ has an impulsive, subjective perception embodied as the central part of it’s judgement.

So lets define ‘art’ as vaguely as we can.

Art, in my opinion, is simply the expression of one’s thoughts in anyway possible. Be it words, photographs, videos, letters, stories, drawings, paintings, sport, obsession etc; all of these have an ‘artistic’ dimensions to them.

But doesn’t this make literally everything ‘art’?

It does, because every word, every emotion represented in whatever medium of expression, holds significance in some way or the other as it is a reflection of our real life experiences. And experiences in one’s life are important, no matter how small do they seem on the outside. Through art, we vicariously forage into someone else’s life and try to connect to their way of thinking and judgement, even if it does not match our own.

So, coming back to the original question: if the ‘art’ goes unacknowledged, is it art? In my opinion, it’s not.

You see, art is a bipartisanship between the artist and the audience. Without any kind of connection between the two, there can be no value to art, and a thing without value cannot be art. If someone had not discovered Leonardo Da Vinci’s mind-blowing manuscripts, given the assumption just for the sake of making a point that he hadn’t had propagated his own work, wouldn’t he be a mysterious ‘no one’?

But no, people did acknowledge the brilliance of Da Vinci’s work, and his name echoes perhaps even more strongly now than during his own lifetime.

Is there anything, other than the expressions of life itself, that resonates on the same level as ‘art’ on a theoretical, principal level like a separate entity?

In my opinion, there is an ‘entity’ that does, and that ‘entity’ is called ‘democracy‘.

In an ideal democracy, there is room to express yourself. Without democracy, where there are shackles, art is either in its diluted form, or is without any value at all, simply because the ‘truth’ in art never comes out if its against the establishment/status-quo or tailored to fit a criterion. Therefore, it is not truly acknowledged.

But there is more to democracy than just that.

Democracy is a system where the true power lies with the people, who, in accordance with their own wishes and interests, propagate beliefs in the form of political support for a party that represents their views. This, on some level, is dual-acknowledgment. For starters, it is the acknowledgement of a man’s beliefs. Imran Khan, for example, has several unique ideas about solving problems in Pakistan. The people who voted for Imran acknowledged his ‘vision‘ and the ‘ability‘ to see through the grey lines. This vision and ability are the mediums of this art; vote is it’s acknowledgement.

On a second level, it is a reflection of the obvious, hence the acknowledgement of the obvious. For example, if an area needs clean supply of water, then an honest ruler/leader would have to recognise this when the people affected highlight the problem. This example is, at best, crude but nonetheless potent. Even on simpler issues like this, the power of the people exists and forces a government to act. This, in other words, is an acknowledgement to a ‘belief’ that a ‘perceived’ object/circumstance exists. In other words, governance becomes an art.

I know this is getting a little fuzzy, so let me try to keep this a little simpler.

A political manifesto from a political party is a consensus that represents a vision for a country. Since people have all kinds of interests and beliefs, there are bound to be people who might prefer ‘A political manifesto’. This is very similar to me listening to ‘Pink Floyd’, because I seem to garner a preference for the kind of music they produce. Its also similar to all the ‘Beliebers’ who find something special in Justin Beiber’s music. If someone finds value in an ‘expression’, then that expression becomes an ‘art’.

Some people reject my theory because they say democracy lacks ingenuity and genius found in the ‘mainstream‘ art. For example, the famous Mona Lisa is a beautiful expression of unknown feelings. Notice that I used the phrase ‘unknown feelings’. This is because it is not known what Da Vinci was actually trying to express in his painting. The ambiguity that stirs up simply due to this, people argue, highlights the ingenious strokes of Da Vinci and his expressions. They say that this is beauty and genius which democracy, a system, lacks.

But I disagree.

Democracy is not simply a ‘system’. It does not operate like a systematically programmed machine; it encompasses politics and the task of ruling; diplomacy and solutions to problems are some other aspects to it.

In other words, if you’re telling me that Otto Von Bismarck wasn’t a genius stroke player, or Guiseppe Mazzini’s devoted life isn’t a soulful, fulfilling expression, or that Karl Marx’s interpretations aren’t mind-blowing, then you’re doing an injustice to the concept of art.

To manoeuvre between circumstances and find a pragmatic approach to suit the interests of your country is purely an ‘act‘ of art, where one gives in to his or her own’s subjective impulses of interpretation of events and reality. Bismarck did the same to unify Germany and achieve peace throughout Europe for 20 good years, ensuring that Germany became a global force to be reckoned with.

If this isn’t genius art, then what is?

To conclude, I’ll wrack up a Bismarck quote (Sorry but my admiration for the man is off the roof):

“Politics is not an exact science…but an art.”