As the world continues to slide into financial meltdown, environmental crises and health nightmares, there are many that will argue that there are more important things to spend money on than the arts, that there are more fundamental things we need to fund than dead cows hanging from the ceiling and the half-baked rantings of crap writers.
They may have a point. But, moral arguments aside, those in charge of doling out the cash should think twice before fucking with ‘creatives’.
It comes down to this. What did Adolf Hitler, Mao Zedong and Joseph Stalin have in common? That is apart from mass murder, genocide, brutal dictatorship and systematic repression? Well, they were all artists, after a fashion.
Adolf was of course a wannabe painter and architect, and reckoned himself to be quite the misunderstood artist. He spent his early adulthood living a poor but bohemian existence in Vienna, where he was twice denied entry to the city’s art academy. If only they’d let him in eh? Then maybe his place in history would have been reduced to a few watercolours.
Meanwhile, in addition to founding the People’s Republic of China and being responsible for the deaths of around 30 million people, Chairman Mao was a prolific poet. He was also a skilled calligrapher, and the writing style that he developed is now more popular than ever in China.
In fact, Mao has been credited with creating the longest piece of graffiti in recorded history. A work some 4,000 characters long on the wall of his college toilet criticising the state of Chinese society. Eat your heart our Banksy.
Uncle Joe Stalin also dabbled in poetry in his youth. His work consisted of verses in a romantic-pastoral vein that was apparently conventional for the Georgian poets of the 1890s. However, constantly repressed under the yoke of Imperial Russia, he packed it all in around 1897 to concentrate on his other passion, revolutionary Marxism. Prior, of course, to making the USSR one of the world’s two super-powers and, one way or another, presiding over the deaths of around 20 million people. See, you shouldn’t fuck with poets.
These nutters were artists who were really pissed off with the way things were. Those in charge who had repressed them were made to pay back tenfold, along with millions of others.
You see artists are usually harmless. They’re too busy getting drunk and focused on getting that phrase/colour/middle 8/dead cow just so to bother those in charge, other than occasionally getting stoned at anti-war rallies or producing ‘subversive’ work that has little effect on mainstream culture or opinion till twenty years after the fact.
But if artists get really unhappy, and are prevented from expressing themselves, then the bean counters and politicos should watch their backs, or they might just end up at the wrong end of gun barrel being held a former graphic designer with a crazy look in their eye. It’s much safer to just keep us in Crayolas and booze. You have been warned.