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Arts and Democracy

Arts role in social movements – Michelle Karunaratne – ICD Programme Coordinator

The use and function of art is a topic that has been subject to much debate. Art can be political and perhaps instigate social change. It can express emotions and expressions of social critique or simply be aesthetic pieces of work. The reason behind the art work as the artist intended it may also be different from the interpretation that the general populace may come to have.

Considering the ambiguous nature of art I hope to explore how art can promote democratic ideal and allow for freedom of expression although at the same time art has been used as a tool for propaganda.

The capacity that art has to move people has been exploited by dictators throughout history, for example Leni Riefenstahl’s film Triumph of the will financed by Aldolf Hitler and other works of art in its many different forms that were commissioned by dictators.

Nevertheless many works of art are associated with the notion of democracy as artists have freedom of expression. Democratic societies create space for variety and allows criticism allowing artists a free reign over their work to produce unique works of art. Works of art have been symbols of rebellions against regimes and dictatorships. Painting by artists such as Jacques-Louis David are now popular symbols of the French revolution.

A modern example of arts playing a role in social movements is offered by the arts and democracy project which recently hosted a conference on the role arts and culture had to play in the social movements in Egypt and Lybia.

Throughout history art as inspired people, changed perceptions, challenged norms and brought new revolutionary concepts to the masses. Despite the role that art can play in propaganda it still has had an immense influence on democratic movements throughout history, which perhaps demonstrates the power of art to inspire strong emotions among humans and the openness of art to interpretation.


About icdblogsphereteam

We are the Blogsphere Team of the Institute for Cultural Diplomacy. We are the interactive part of the web resources of ICD. We spread culture and mutual understanding among cultures through blogs.


3 thoughts on “Arts role in social movements – Michelle Karunaratne – ICD Programme Coordinator

  1. I agree with what you say , maybe you should have a look at this

    Posted by ArtCo | July 15, 2011, 9:23 am
  2. I agree with the fact that art is supposed to be about expression, promoting dialogue and stimulating ideas and perhaps it should be free of dogma and ideology. Whether today’s artists are simply “pre programmed socialist robots” is an issue that could turn into a lengthy debate that might not produce any definitive answers. However I would like to point out that historically some of the works art that are considered to be master pieces were commissioned by institutions such as the church to promote their own agendas, so I wouldn’t support the argument that modern artists have no artistic expression at all or that there aren’t artists who produce work that supports a certain ideology or institution. Anyway thanks for the post, the article was interesting.

    Posted by icdblogsphereteam | July 15, 2011, 12:56 pm
  3. “I wouldn’t support the argument that modern artists have no artistic expression at all”
    I never said all modern artists.
    Some modern art is great. If its real art.
    Glad you liked the article.

    Posted by ArtCo | July 15, 2011, 2:02 pm

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The London Art as Cultural Diplomacy ConferenceAugust 21st, 2013


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