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Connection Between Art Movements and Political Activism

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Aimed to move beyond our everyday assumptions about art, politics and how they relate, it is worth drawing our attention to the processes that often unite creative practices and practices of resistance. Resistance is an inherently creative notion, associated with creativity, for making a difference. If ‘resistance’ responds to a situation – oppression, injustice, violence – then we need to consider whether the resistance itself is also informed and shaped by its very target, by the very environment that it resists. These were the questions of great significance to iconic resistance figure of the past Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi and the living legend of resistance of the present Mamata Banerjee, the Chief Minister of Bengal, India. For example, if we are focusing oppression that is violent and unjust, should we adopt the methods of our opponents? Violence? Do the ends justify the means, or, if they do, do we not become like our opponents? And in that case, is our resistance already undermined? How can we transcend the environment that we are resisting? It is in this context that creativity – and art – is so important, as creativity, may give freedom to ‘respond differently to the challenges faced. Successful resistance is often unpredictable – it questions and undermines given expectations of what can or cannot be done or thought, disrupting and unsettling the standard workings of power which are framed to appear inappropriate, arbitrary and unjust.

In Gandhi’s and Mamata’s case, the question of how their campaigns were different in terms of both ends and means from the systems of power within which they operated, led them to place emphasis on a process of inner purification. For example, if justice is my concern, and if it is my intention to resist injustice, do I then not have an obligation to examine how my own life is sustained and how, perhaps, it is implicated in the injustice I want to resist? The clothes I wear, the food I eat, the products I use: how much injustice is implied in the making of these goods? They have changed their lifestyle in order to bring it into harmony with their beliefs and convictions. And if I am not prepared to do that, then how serious am I about my ‘resistance’ – in fact, before I resist anything, I do have to resist myself. And in addition to resisting the systems of power I must immunize myself from their influence. If I do not examine the features that sustained my own life, how will I know that I am indeed able to ‘step out’ and leave behind the structures and systems I want to resist?

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