“MURALS” ( A brief excerpt from our book )
The abstract notion of ‘society’, much touted by politicians, is, of course, a shibboleth. Society is sum total of human relationships especially those we designate as "role-playing". Man is a social being and his life is by definition contextual. How he relates to himself, his work, his friends, his past, his present, his future, his family and world in general determines his life and defines him. From wastelands of social pariah to media touted ‘pillar of establishment’ is a broad spectrum indeed. It is a spectrum explored by satirists in general and by many of major playwrights. Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot”, for example, is essentially an expose of craziness of man as a social being. The theatre deals expressly with all aspects of social relationships. Is theatrical expression political? How can it not?
Painting deals with context quite consciously. Context is as much a theme of Manet’s ‘Dejeuner Sur L’herbe’ as it is of Beckett's “En Attendant Godot”. It is as much exemplified in Picasso's Guernica as it is in work of Magritte and De Chirico. All art is social. All art is therefore political in essence. Whether it becomes overtly political or covertly political has as much to do with context, as it has to do with artist himself. A portrait of Hitler would be a revered object in a Neo-Nazi's lair but in a Jewish synagogue it would be something else entirely, if indeed it managed to hang there for more than ten seconds. Just as a man can attain immediate notoriety by streaking in wrong place at right time so careerists in art world manipulate context in order to win maximum attention for themselves. Advertisers too like Benetton have not been slow to learn trick. Therefore, to label certain artists as 'political' is simply to say they are 'overtly' political in same way as a pickpocket is conspicuously a thief while retailer who overcharges for his merchandise is merely a 'respected businessman'. Both are playing same game. The word is not thing.
How we relate to things will have a lot to say about choices we make. After all, bigotry itself and its extreme manifestation racism, is at heart a relationship problem. The antithesis of ugly and beautiful is primarily a contextual problem whose parameters are always shifting. Consequently, modern art critics, bereft of any normative frame of reference in our time are all at sea as to what constitutes ‘good’ art and what ‘bad’. Wily businessmen like Saatchi and Saatchi and unscrupulous curators everywhere are ever ready to capitalize on their ignorance and on befuddlement of public in general.
Since ‘scandalous’ arrival of Duchamp’s urinal use of context has become a favorite weapon in artist’s armatorium. From that point of view there is really nothing new about Hirst’s work. Surrealism, as a movement outside of its psychological pretensions, was pragmatically an investigation into context. In era of New Age thinking, of course, and technological “advancement” all this seems like old hat these days but in their time these cultural statements were radical in extreme.