Can artists and their art pieces still make us think?

Art is a means of expression through different sorts of art pieces. The art piece can be an object, a sculpture, a painting, a drawing, an illustration, or some other medium. The artists express their truth through art. Art exists in many forms and has three main possible roles: as an object of consumption, an object of value, and a political object. A piece of art becomes an object of consumption when it is purchased. Art is also a valuable object that signals your belonging to a social class–an object adopted to give a social distinction. Then there is another role that one wonders if it is significant: the political role. We expect contemporary art to make people think, to shake people up. However, does art still have the ability to do so in a society that is so centered around entertainment?

Silvestre and her artistic career

Silvestre is an American sculptor and painter. Born in Ecuador, at an early age she and her family moved from Quito to Miami.  At 18, she received a scholarship to the Cooper Union and lived in New York for 10 years, where she successfully began her career as an artist. Nevertheless, she wanted to get out of her comfort zone and try her luck elsewhere. After earning her master’s degree in Paris, she decided in 2018 to move to Berlin, Germany. Berlin was a perfect city for her: a creative city that offers a realistic opportunity to focus on work and have a good quality of life. Also, she feels less insular in Berlin as compared to New York, which is separated from the rest of the US.

Her art ranges from photography to video to sculpture and painting. Her artistic works highlight significant events in the American political scene. She is currently working on a project related to the border crisis between Mexico and the United States.

Show a new perspective of reality through art

Each artist has their own routine and source of inspiration for their works of art. For each project, inspiration comes from reading for Silvestre. She does research for a few months. She reads and collects newspaper articles, novels, and lectures. Then, she looks for parallels between them and from this decides on  a subject she wants to address.

The articles she read for this project, which talk about the Mexican-American border crisis, demonstrate how the United States, through its interventionism, provokes migration crises in South America and for its own interests.

Trump’s critics are wrong about the border crisis. So is Trump
Source : Los Angeles Time

These military, economic, and political interventions are leading some South American countries into distress and have significant economic and social effects. This is an advantage for the American government, which has more power and control. It can be exemplified by American companies or large groups with a hold in the agri-food and telecommunications industries.

Silvestre is interested in this contradiction between the exploitation of this labor force and these lands on the one hand and, on the other hand, this determination to defend borders and this strong hostility towards immigration. “This is surprising when we know that most of our economy has been based on the exploitation of their work,” she says.

In this project, Silvestre puts an emphasis on spaces, as they are the first witnesses of this human tragedy. These lands represent horror and abandonment. There is no more morality, no more humanity. “This horror becomes unreal because it goes beyond what is bearable to look at,” she explains. Silvestre’s work aims to inform its viewers about the effects of unregulated capitalism and to give a new perspective. However, can this artistic project lead to questioning oneself and one’s beliefs? Does the artist have the ability to do this?

The ambivalent role of art

Art and politics have always interacted. The artist often aims to defend political positions and art is frequently used as a tool for propaganda. There is also a trend of embellishing poverty and using it as a business.  Silvestre does not claim to want to save the world with her artistic creations. But she thinks it’s important to depict the reality of her time. Future generations can see how yesterday’s artists have interpreted the social, political, and cultural reality of their times. Silvestre builds on this inability to change the world by quoting Patti Smith. “Patti Smith said that artists have become so disillusioned with the world around them that they would make art out of this subject. They are observers, commentators on the world around them”, says Silvestre.

There is also a trend of using political engagement as a business. Some artists claim to be engaged artists, a label that serves as bait but has no political significance. Political engagement can sell and can fall into a conformist political engagement.  Conformist political engagement addresses popular current affairs or issues that are no longer taboo. Artists choose to orient their art as an influential medium at the political, social, or cultural level. Art can make people think and question, but art that changes the world remains utopian.  

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