Wednesday, August 19, 2009

What Is The Purpose Of Government? Public Art And The Strengthening Of Community.

What is the purpose of government? Is it simply to take money from the citizens, and use that money to fund a military force to attack other nations, steal their riches, bring them back for the kings and princes and lords, or the politicians and CEOs and Wall Street financiers?

Or is the purpose of government to create the best possible country, the best place for its own people to live their lives? If so, then shouldn't government fund and encourage public art, including not just sculpture, but also performance art? If the purpose of government is to create a great country, shouldn't the government build parks, and keep safe for the public the oceans, the lakes, the forrests, all the wonderful resources and recreational areas, rather than letting the rich take them over for themselves?

There is a British artist named Antony Gormley who has created a piece of art known as "Another Place." It actually consists of 100 cast iron man-like figures about 6 feet tall, each weighing over 1400 pounds. The figures are displayed by being spread out over a certain area, usually by and in the sea, and will be submerged at high-tide, re-emerge intact when the tide goes out.

The pieces have been displayed in Germany, Norway and Belgium, and currently are at Crosby Beach in England.

The pieces generate a good deal of discussion among the residents of the towns where they have been displayed. Some objected to the life-like penis that is shown on each sculpture.
Of course there is much discussion and analysis about what did the artist mean, does this tell us something about the modern man, alienation, emptiness of modern life?

Public art serves many purposes, including giving people a place to go in public and a reason to talk to each other, share views, create community. It's such a contradiction to see European nations creating common areas for their citizens to come out, socialize with each other, get to know their neighbors, exchange ideas, enjoy their country.

In the U.S. the government uses most of our money to fund wars against other countries in the world, to terrorize, threaten and intimidate our neighbors. When we hold public meetings, the craziest of the lunatic fringe bring assault weapons to the meetings to threaten their neighbors and force them to run back and hide inside their homes. Instead of "community," and a public sphere and arena, instead of dialogue with our neighbors, we are locked inside separate homes glued to an electronic advertising-delivery device. That's not community. It's just existence.

Public art is a source of pride for the citizens of a country. It is a public way of saying "Here, we did this, or we exhibited this." It allows citizens to feel a sense of belonging to a society, a group that creates and has ideas and does things that have artistic value. It strengthens community. It makes people think that they matter, their fellow-citizens matter. Maybe that's why we have so little of it. Our money goes for tanks and weapons, to kill, not for public spaces, not to create community.

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