Nick Ahad: Why artists should stand up and be counted

Carrie Fisher.
Carrie Fisher.
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Artists: this is it. Your judgement day has arrived.

If you’re a painter or poet, if you’re an actor or a dancer, if you’re a director or a playwright, a novelist or an essayist, a cartoonist or a choreographer, if you’re a singer or a songwriter; whatever artform pulls you towards it and infects your soul, it’s time.

If you have ever felt inside you that compulsion to turn to art to express something you understand or strive to understand about the world, this is your moment of judgement. I don’t mean in a Biblical, fire and brimstone sense, but in a very real sense, you are about to be judged on what you do next.

As Carrie Fisher said and as we now know thanks to her friend Meryl Streep, it is time to take your broken heart and make it into art. You will be judged on what you do next. If you are an artist it is your job, your duty to stand up now and be counted.

We live in a world where a megalomaniac demagogue has ascended to the highest office of the western world. Here is a man who twists facts, who stares at the evidence when we present it to him and tells us, with no hint of irony, that his four small fingers actually number five. He sent his press representative to lie to the world, to lie to you.

Your only response, artists, is to create art that challenges. You have to create art that is full of dissent and righteous anger. It is incumbent upon you to scream like the paintings of Francis Bacon about what is happening to our world. You have to satirise like Orwell, dance until your feet bleed like Pina Bausch and you have to Howl like Ginsberg. Commit to being honest as fiercely as Brecht, speak truth to power like Joan Littlewood and sing songs with the passion of Billie Holiday channeling Strange Fruit.

You are our artists, you are our mirrors. You need to reflect all that is heinous in our world so that we can see the truth. That is what art does. That is now your job. This is a message to all artists from all corners of the political spectrum.

If your personal politics lie to the right, then express what you must, but do not sit limp and idle as the wool is pulled over your eyes. Lean to the right but shine your light into the dark that is descending. You’re going to be asked, you back bedroom writers, you attic room painters, you wandering poets, what you did. The future will look over its shoulder and judge you on this moment. If you choose to make art that doesn’t challenge, that isn’t fuelled by a rage that feels like it’s going to spill out of your guts at any moment, then you will be judged to have failed. Artists: make art and make it count: you’re going to be judged on what you do next.