"Art should be a rebellion" / by Jeannine Cook

The wonderful Lebanese bard, Marcel Khalife, was interviewed in late February on PBS by Jeffrey Brown during the Newshour (http://www.pbs.org/newshour/art/blog/2009/02) about his music and life. Khalife evoked the song he sings, Passport, which uses the words of a haunting poem by the late extraordinary Middle Eastern poet, Mahmoud Dawish. The gist of what he said at one point was that art should be a rebellion, and it should not submit to ordinary life.

Perhaps one of the problems people have with the concept of beauty in art, (see my blog entry of 22.2.2009) is that often art implicitly challenges comfortable assumptions we have about our world and our opinions. A large percentage of artwork, in all media, is overtly or covertly rebellious. Politics, social customs, economic situations - a whole host of issues is addressed by artists in their work. If one is even vaguely aware that there are "subversive" messages in the art, one's opinion can thus possibly be coloured as to whether the art is beautiful or not.

Not submitting to "ordinary life", challenging the status quo, can take many forms in art. Even using art, as I often do, to draw attention to our collective potential loss when fragile and often beautiful environments are destroyed, is a certain form of resistance. Coastal Georgia is frequently under assault from "development" and so-called "progress"; any challenge to the notion that destroying places for personal enrichment is perfectly acceptable can be seen as rebellion. Every artist finds issues about which passions are stirred - those issues become that artist's personal rebellion. Society needs lots of artists - their rebellions are ultimately our collective conscience.