Thank god – 2020 is finally over. What an extraordinarily terrible year it was. And sadly, it’s not even looking to improve any time soon. But that’s a story for a different day…
However, while this was and is all going on, there was one positive thing (apart from my family, naturally…) that really kept me going. And that is Art (with a capital A).
You may view it as rather indulgent to start an art blog during these times of international crisis. But actually, I argue that art may have an important role in overcoming the current crisis.
When I am talking about ‘crisis’ in this context, I am not talking about a medical crisis by the way, but the extraordinary attack on democracy, freedom and human rights that is currently happening all over the world. For the avoidance of doubt: I am by no means a ‘Covid-denier’, if that’s what you are thinking. As a fully trained medical doctor I can confirm that SARS-CoV2 is indeed a nasty respiratory virus that can be threatening for some individuals. However, there is no doubt in my mind that the disproportionate and often senseless anti-Covid measures that are forced upon us by governments worldwide, will ultimately destroy more lives and actually kill more people than saving lives. That’s a sad fact. And I say this as a qualified medical doctor who has spent hundreds of hours in the past few months performing intense literature research on the topic, so yes, I know what I am talking about. And I am not saying this lightly.
So, when I say ‘crisis’ in this context, what I mean is the astonishing attack on our democracies, freedom, free speech and human rights that we are currently experiencing, imposed on us with the justification of being ‘for our own safety’ and ‘our own good’. Former Supreme Court judge and historian Lord Jonathan Sumption agrees that the UK government “deliberately stoked up fear over coronavirus in order to justify lockdown restrictions that represent the most significant interference with personal freedom in the history of our country”. He warns: “The sheer scale on which the government has sought to govern by decree creating new criminal offences sometimes several times a week on the mere say so of ministers, is in constitutional terms truly breath-taking”. I agree and have no doubt that history will reveal the draconian Covid restrictions such as lockdowns to be one of the biggest blunders in the history of medicine.
So, it’s in this context that I feel art is becoming ever more important. It has not only kept me sane on a personal level throughout the past 10 months, but may in fact, amongst other things, be a vital factor for helping our society overcome this crisis.
Art allows us to examine what it means to be human, as well as to express criticism and voice warnings without being censored. Art can get people out of their comport zone and provoke thoughts where reason may not reach. Art can chip away slowly and intangibly, where direct speech can be all to easily censored and blocked. We are currently seeing exactly this with doctors and scientists, who disagree with the government line on Covid, being censored, ridiculed and removed from public platforms.
This is where art comes in. As Toni Morrison, winner of the 1993 Nobel Prize in Literature, said, reflecting on the role of art in hard times:
“This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal.”
This quote really resonated with me. In fact, when I first read it, I started crying (no, I am not pregnant…). Toni goes on to say, “In times of dread, artists must never choose to remain silent.”
… which is precisely why I started this art blog today. Here, I will speak my truth – without fear of repercussions and with no time for virtue signalling.
You may take it or leave it.