Mediating Betrayal

May 28, 2019

Recent conversations at ArtsEverywhere with artists and journalists evoke perceptions of an imminent future marked by a further eradication of spaces for constructive civil discourse and disagreement. As social media perpetuates cults of personality, viral hatreds escalate to violent targeting of marginalized or oppositional groups. As populism becomes the norm and dominant figures of influence flagrantly abuse their power with impunity, there is a continued breakdown of basic trust at all levels of society.

A global cast of sycophantic political leaders, oppressive regimes, and multinational corporations are hacking away at any possibility of trust-building between nations, communities, or individuals. In the United States, China, Russia, India, Brazil, Italy, Turkey, the Philippines, and elsewhere, dictators have risen to power with psychotic claims, enacting grotesque and inhumane policies. Madmen are maintaining and utilizing inherently corrupt, broken systems of governance, social service, education and infrastructure to exploit desperation-induced ignorance to keep large populations living in subhuman conditions, for exorbitant profits. And when all the chicanery falls short, they murder their own people. There is no forecast for the future except perpetual fear.

As a result, senseless and inhumane socio-economic policies, military actions and the curtailing of basic human rights become normalized and easily justified in any contentious situation. It’s now commonplace for regular people to express betrayal by their governments, institutions, neighbors and one another—betrayals without recourse or resolution. The deeper entrenched these rifts, the more their villainous architects are empowered to continue tearing the earth and civil society to shreds.

Increasingly, we see artists being attacked—and attacking one other—along lines of ethnicity, sexuality, and political affiliations, often claiming exclusive ownership widely over particular content and contexts. Often under the guise of righteous action, always in the service of some form of capital gain.

For artists who are grinding it out, notions of social justice being achieved through our work can start to feel increasingly distant, farfetched, and futile. From the political to the emotional, it is not just a conceptual distance, but one that can come to define our closest interpersonal relationships. And destroy them.

At ArtsEverywhere, we are committed to deconstructing this polarization toward consolidations of power and to supporting artistic processes that wage a direct challenge to these post-colonial dystopian constructions by nurturing basic human creativity and connectivity.

Trust is easy to break, and perhaps, while not as easy, there are ways to rebuild it.

The cover image for this entanglement originally appeared in An Iceland Story: Artists Who Inspire Public Engagements, published on on April 4, 2019. Image credit: Angeli Novi (Steinunn Gunnlaugsdóttir and Ólafur Páll Sigurðsson), You Can’t Stand in the Way of Progress, 2012. Video, 20:18.

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