Artist / Citizen

In 1958 I wrote the following:

'There are no hard distinctions between what is real and what is unreal, nor between what is true and what is false. A thing is not necessarily either true or false; it can be both true and false.'

I believe that these assertions still make sense and do still apply to the exploration of reality through art. So as a writer I stand by them but as a citizen I cannot. As a citizen I must ask: What is true? What is false?

[Harold Pinter]
Nobel Lecture, 'Art, Truth & Politics' 

What does this time demand of us?

We are constantly reminded that we have many rights. We have the right to enjoy our lives, to embrace our individuality, and explore our potential. 'You only have one life, so live it'.

But the microcosm of our own little world exists within a wider context, a shared territory upon which we all stand, and a fluctuation underfoot could easily see our little worlds come crumbling down.

At one point the larger picture may have demanded that we question everything; that we push boundaries and shatter paradigms. This was the project of postmodernism, and perhaps it served a purpose in the wider scheme of things. 

Postmodernism demanded that the citizen become an artist, and do what artists do - play with assumptions, poke, prod and push. The beautiful landscape wasn't good enough anymore. Maybe it represented complacency, a stifling status quo, and so it needed to be undermined. Nothing was as it seemed. Solid became liquid. Things melted into other things. Male became female, and vice-versa.

And now it is the right of every individual to poke and prod and push their own boundaries, or at least go through the motions.

But where once the citizen was impelled to become the artist, now, perhaps, the tables have turned. There are too many artists. And not enough citizens. We are lost within our postmodern playground. We don't know which way is up anymore. What these times demand of us is that liquid become solid - that the artist become the citizen. We must find the courage to draw boundaries, and to say with conviction: this is true, and this is false.