BTS: Abby Martin on an Artist’s Duty

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MEDIA ROOTS — Abby Martin raises the important question, in the finest spirit of Nina Simone, of an artist’s duty toward humanity. Here, she showcases some of her political artwork and explains art’s importance in reflecting the zeitgeist of today’s society. 



Abby Martin on an Artist’s Duty


4 thoughts on “BTS: Abby Martin on an Artist’s Duty

  1. While I think it is true art is universal in practise, I do not believe it is universal as a language: some art simply has not stir or read as a viable interpretation that stokes my or someone else’s emotions.
    As a commentary on our times, it can also be very joyous and revealing as opposed to dour or anxious. The USA is such a commerce culture artists can find it like swimming in drying cement to be light or salt in a society where major media often serves as an opiate. Nothing new about this Mi6 mentality.
    As far as the President goes, I give less blame to him. He would not be allowed to be there unless his handlers could trust him–no more JFK or Old Hickory types. He is surrounded by CFR and Tri-Lateral types: globalists, post-nationals, Anglo-American sorts who are simply having him do was has been a long term agenda and failure in human nature. I agree that more courage would help in the arts and venues for its expressive display. Love, more than anger or fear, is still a great motivator. I draw and put art on line and, hopefully, shed some light on the thinking pro and con, of our times as you are doing as well. My obligation is mine. Some artist are makers of pretty pictures that say nothing but “I am a pretty picture” and for them this is just fine. Thank for your insightful and courageous commentary and images.

  2. Ok – but how can one NOT “reflect the reality in which we see”? And how can one have a “duty” to do something that is, in a sense, inescapable?

    That seems to make art a passive activity if it is just “reflecting”.
    Whereas part of what I was saying in my previous comment is that art is more than just a reactive activity – eg. more than just responding to physical or political circumstances, and more than just expressing feelings or impressions that are flowing through us. There is an inner core of being that transcends circumstances – like some people are able to experience beauty and enlightenment even in the moment of physical death.

    I watched the segment twice before I made my comment. If the “artist’s duty” is just to be honest, then we are in agreement. I agree there is a political dimension to all action.

  3. @Seacrudge You missed the point of this segment, which is not saying that people need to be overtly political with art, but by saying we should reflect the reality in which we see. However, I am in the mindset that everything we do on a daily basis is political.

  4. HI Abby,

    I like you and your show, and agree with most of your causes. And I have no problem with people using art to make political points. I do it myself.

    However, the theses that art “should” “reflect one’s time/s”, and be overtly political are questionable ones, when presented as general rules.

    In the first place, what is/are one’s “time/s”? Is it just one’s lifetime and particular social circumstances? Or just one’s adult life? Or is it one’s inherited culture (eg. “American” culture since 18th century, or Euro culture etc.)? Is it the geographical extent of one’s body, or the limits of one’s intellect and empathy? Or some vague combination?

    I’m sure you’re familiar with ancient artworks and literary works such as Stonehenge, I Ching, or Homer’s Odyssey, that have outlasted “their time” and have spanned many different cultures. This could mean that its possible to take a longer view, historically, or it could mean the very notion of “one’s time” is problematic and hard to define.

    I’m saying that a lot of political art (not all of it) takes reality and truth for granted, whereas I would suggest that part of the meaning of art is to explore and define the limits of truth and reality. This is also why I draw no hard and fast line between art and science. Would you deny an artistic dimension to what we may think of conventionally as scientific inquiry, whether it is microbiology, computer science, or astrophysics?

    The reason I’ve written this isn’t to try and belittle or invalidate your work – I like your art and I enjoy watching your show regularly. But even though I’m very happy and grateful that you’re doing what you’re doing, I disagree that art “should” be political as a general rule, that artists somehow have a “duty” to politically engage on a literal and materialistic level. Their are other artistic endeavors that are equally valid, that don’t necessarily start out with set goals and clearly defined concepts. These are more exploratory “philosophical” forms of art, and they are not necessarily about art as personal therapy. And anyway, just how literally does one define the “political”? One one hand some marxists tell us there is a political dimension to every act, while simultaneously telling us the “real” political is physical and economic force.

    Truth exists, justice is real. But this is perhaps where we disagree: existence and reality are not the obvious, and they are not always consciously and literally accessible to us. Its a big universe, and “our time” has, as yet, explored only a tiny fraction of it.

    All I’m saying is, I hope you’ll leave your mind open for a variety of artistic practices besides your own, and not allow the bounds of your political reality to be defined by those you are fighting against.

    Best wishes,

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