ART AND SOCIAL ENGAGEMENT

 

‘Throughout the history of art, art critics and historians have raised the question whether art should have a specific content, raise awareness or provoke a dialogue.  Can art not only find its justification in its non-functionalism, its sheer being without a specific function, it´s purely aesthetic or even sublime appearance that can stand on its own?

 

All of this is true. Rightfully so, there have been many forms of beautiful non-functional art throughout history. But art history has also shown that an important role is imaginable for art that is conceptual; art that addresses a concept, a thought, an idea, art that reflects on world society in its entirety or regional societies and people and even, if you like, art with a message to the world and its audience.

 

In my work as an artist I seek to combine all these forms, trying to concur with my personal reflections and memories to the world around me, to the society in which I live and that of Africa where I worked as humanitarian aid worker from 1992 –1999.

 

During these years I have seen thousands of people living on the edge of acceptability, numbed stupefied faces, and dying children, mothers distraught with fear, infatuated aid workers, and unutterable violence.

 

In my art work I often reflect on the general quality of life I have witnessed on the African continent; Rwanda during the genocide and the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mozambique and the life in the Republic of South Africa right after the abolishment of Apartheid , especially in the townships and slums of Cape Town.

 

By doing so I try to create not only an aesthetic work of art that may be appreciated for its form or appearance but also art that serves for or is instrumental to raising consciousness about the general quality of life. For me this is an important justification for making art which provokes a dialogue, call it social engagement, in which the general quality of life of all living organisms can and should be debatable.

 

In our modern society overwhelmed by major issues of globalisation, the rich and the poor in the North-South divided, increasing political and religious fanaticism, the concomitant rise in nationalism and terrorism and global warming as a direct effect of mankind´s  disruption of nature, essential questions arise about human existence and the quality of life on earth. These problems can only be addressed if humanity in its entirety combines its efforts.

 

Our world in the 21st century is no longer regionally divided. What appears to be a problem at the other side of the globe today is no longer something that can be ignored but is likely to enter our backyard tomorrow. It is time for all of us to take action!

 

About these world issues I want to participate as an artist and seek to contribute to solution not only as an artist but first and foremost as a socially-conscious human being.

 

© Ciska de Hartogh

Ciska de Hartogh