Monday, May 19, 2008

Jeanette Winterson on art's role in affecting political and social change

Read this in a recent "Brooklyn Rail" (just found it's online as well - An interview with author Jeanette Winterson.
Just a small excerpt that I wanted to share with you:

Rail: Can you talk a little about the role you think fiction should play in affecting political and social change?

Winterson: Art, all art, protects imaginative space. Encounters with art open your mind because they force you away from your usual little world into spaces both meditative and challenging. It is a great mistake, the biggest mistake of all, to confuse a piece of art with its subject matter—what it says, what it’s about. We can’t do that with music, and we can’t do it with abstract painting, etc. That should warn us not to do it, full-stop. Of course a novel is “about” something, but its power is in its language and its image-making. When we turn to art, we are turning away from the clock-driven busy world into a reflective space that allows us to find our own meaning and our own beat. Change is impossible unless it starts with the individual. Art is always, always, always about the individual, the one-to-one experience. Change begins when our minds change—when our hearts change. That’s what art does, and that is why governments in the West don’t ban art—that would make it important and we would fight to keep it—no, they trivialize art, call it a luxury, call it elitist, quietly withdraw it from school study, and we go along with this, and soon we are just passive consumers of goods and news items, and we lose our spiritual muscle. Art keeps your mind fit, keeps your heart strong.

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