If art (and here I lapse into the sin of being generic, though it is really the art of the theater I know and am speaking about) has any political impact, and I believe it does, it seems to me that it’s most likely to have it by being effective as art–in other words, that political agendas can’t successfully be imposed on the act of making art, of creation, for all that those agendas will invariably surface from within once the art is made. (Kushner 44)
Tony Kushner was really on to something whenever he said that “art is most effective as art.” (Kushner 44) I personally believe imposing secondary agendas on anything can be the fastest way to destroy it. Even though Kushner is specifically referring to theater, he is also correct in saying that this can be applied to any form of art be it performance, written, or even visual.
There are a few problems with attempting to use any form of art for strictly political purposes. First of all it can limit the range of interested viewers. Many people go see a play, read a book, see a dance performance, or even go to an art gallery to escape the issues of the world for a while–political headaches being one of the main reasons for these much-needed guided adventures into the world of the sublime. By labeling something as political art, or art which is presented with the intention of swaying the viewer towards or away from one political agenda or another, the artist is automatically scaring away the individuals who search for pleasure and escape in art. I know this because, not only do I personally know many individuals like this, I also fall into this school of thought (although if there are political undertones within the piece it is perfectly fine to me, just as long as it does not jeopardize the quality and primary intended effect of the art in question). Another problem which can arise from using art for strictly political purposes is that it can drastically decrease the overall effectiveness of the art. Telling people that they are supposed to get something out of a piece of art is the quickest way to limit their creativity. I believe that we must all be allowed the chance to formulate our own opinions about different things which we encounter–be it art or politics–and forcing a political agenda on something is wrong.
Needless to say I agree completely with Kushner–art should be created and enjoyed as art primarily. If an individual viewing the art in question happens to apply it to a political agenda or connect it with such things, then it will have a much more powerful affect overall than if one were to try to force a political agenda. We should dissolve the boundary between the two in such a subtle way that one can be appreciating a work of art and suddenly discover that they formulate his or her own opinion about what it means and how it is relevant to him or her as an individual.
Kushner, Tony. “Some Questions about Tolerance.” Thinking About the Longstanding Problems of Virtue and Happiness. New York: NY. Theatre Communications Group, 1995. 41-46. Print.