Who is art at the service of? – 文艺到底为谁服务? – English

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Since Mao pronounced the “Yan’an speech”, art started on the road of serving politics, and art has become a political tool. Emphasising the political function of art has led to art losing its nature. And art that has lost its nature cannot flourish any more. After 1949, the political function of art has increased to the highest possible point, and the result is that the flowers of art have withered, and no work as good as those before 1949 has been produced.

After the reform and opening, art has gradually moved away from politics, and developed its own characteristics. However, under the characteristics of a market economy, art for art’s sake in the end faces the risk of freedom. If it fits in with the market, art can jump on the chariot of development and prosper. If art does not fit in with the market, it will struggle to prosper, at least in the short-term.

The main body of art is represented by the artists themselves. They need to live, and they want quality of life. So there is a great difference between artists. A small number of artists are still loyal to their art, and uphold the principle of artistic freedom. Another part have assimilated to the market, they follow the market, and if the market wants one type of art, they produce it – whatever the market doesn’t want, they won’t do.

Those people who move along with market trends, slowly become slaves to the market. It is inevitable that art will become vulgar, erotic, pornographic, kitsch, sensual. There is no market for humanity and human dignity, human freedom and equality. For instance, the small works of Zhao Benshan are a good example of the vulgarisation of art, most of his works show contempt for human dignity.

It is with this kind of background that Xi Jinping hosted the forum on the arts in Beijing on the morning of October 15 2014, and delivered an important speech. Xi Jinping emphasised that art cannot be lost in the tide of the market economy, art cannot be a slave to the market, and cannot be corrupted by the fumes of wealth.

Art can’t become a slave to the market, but what kind of art can become what kind of slave? If we go back to Mao Zedong’s era, art became a slave to power, a slave to the government, and there was no way out of the politicisation of art. So if art is going to take the road of politicisation, it might as well take that of consumerism, and become a slave to the market. Slavery to the market is a progress in relation to State slavery. In the market, at least, there is equal competition; only the works that triumph within the market can make it to the broad public. Marketisation, vulgarisation, still represent a form of freedom, and freedom is better than submission to mandatory power. The marketisation of art retains the possibility of good works coming about. In comparison, with authority as a background, no good work is possible.

From an ideal point of view, art should become its own master. The recently staged play, ‘The Golden Age’, tells us a simple truth, Xiao Hong becomes neither a slave to power, nor a slave to the market. Only by becoming her own master does she achieve the works of Xiao Hong. Mo Yan earned the Nobel Prize for literature because he was faithful to his own feelings, and only by becoming his own master did he become Mo Yan. Yan Lianke just received the Kafka prize, because he remained faithful to his feelings of pain, his feeling of ‘deep suffering’, that’s how he became Yan Lianke. Yan Lianke’s ‘blindness’ complex is such that, even as he doesn’t see the light himself, he holds a torch and lights the path for others.

Only if a writer writes for themselves, according to their own conscience, without yielding to external pressure or bowing to external force, but continuing to struggle for their own freedom – only then will they become a great writer, and let the centuries feel the free breathing of a writer.

There is a wide range of artistic works, not all of them are literature. If every artist could become their own master, and write from their own freedom and conscience, then every day would be spring for literature, without the leaders saying a word about it being spring. If artists constantly write on behalf of power, striving to become slaves to power, then every day is winter for art. The words of the leaders make winter even colder, and all the works, no matter how good, would freeze to death in the cold. When Zhao Benshan and his disciples study the words of Secretary Zhong, this kind of attempt at becoming a slave to power will only make winter come faster.

When artistic works are faithful to their own conscience and freedom, then freedom will appear on the artistic market, and the market will flourish. As Hayek said, when every individual pursues their individual freedom, a natural order forms. Freedom’s utility to society is not intentional. The prosperity of the art market lies in the creativity that freedom brings, and free artistic creativity will lift up the spirit of the whole community to a higher level. And so these works of low and taste and no substance will be eliminated by freedom from the market.

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Source : 21ccom

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About julien.leyre

French-Australian writer, educator, sinophile. Any question? Contact julien@marcopoloproject.org