Our…[X]…which art in heaven – Matthew 6:9 (KJV)
Art is something everyone knows about, but simultaneously, it is something completely different for each person. Some see it as medicine, an escape, a pleasure, stimulation; and of course, in consumer society, others see art as a luxury, a method for advertisement, business; and behavioral conditioning. However, for raw artists, it is a revolution, a spiritual experience, an educational method, and a way to effect change.
When it comes to raw art, Anairda is a multi-faceted, professional artist and activist from Ecuador, who has been a remarkable teacher to me and many other emerging artists. I often consider myself her apprentice, because every time I have a face to face conversation with this amazing woman, I get charged up with artistic inspiration, strength, and confidence.
I decided to interview her in order to share her perspective about the role of art in education and political change. These were her answers:
Anairda, what is your personal definition of Art?
It’s difficult to define something whose own nature is freedom. But to contribute to the rainbow of ideas, to me art is an endless mystical exploration; an adventure to unveil or just to touch the soul of everything; it’s mystical because one has to open to something bigger than oneself, to a wider energy, in order to grasp inspiration and then work with it.
Why do you think it is so difficult for raw artists to succeed nowadays?
Well, it depends how we define success. To me, success as an artist is to be able to do what you love without needing to work on anything else, whether or not people consider you famous. That is only possible under specific circumstances, which makes it unfair for the majority.
I believe that being a successful artist (that doesn’t sell her/his soul!) is in general still difficult compared to other professions because we live in a world where the system that wants to be imposed on us has a capitalist, imperialist and patriarchal model; under this system anything that makes us more human, sympathetic, spiritual, is an obstacle – you can’t control people if they are free inside. We, in our societies, suffer from the conflict between following the rules of this system in order to survive and allowing ourselves and our communities to develop naturally. Many authors have already explained that there is no human development without cultural development and that’s the reason why one of the first things fascist regimes do is to cut or stop artistic or cultural expression. Raw art or any kind of honest art. is a vital part of our progress towards liberation from any kind of oppressive mentality or system, so even though it won’t be supported by those seeking mass control, we need to continue doing it, to maintain the roads for our creativity and keep them open.
Why is raw art perceived as a social threat?
Probably for the reasons I have explained above.
Do you think art is the best method to teach?
I don’t know if it’s the best, but I believe art (or creativity) is an essential part of learning because education is a process that people need to own, rather than it being imposed on them. To reflect on things, to theorise is important, but we don’t really learn until we do, explore, test, relate, feel. Art has that quality of not only allowing you to do all those things but also challenging you to keep your mind open, to keep figuring things out.
At what age did you know you were going to be an artist?
Oh, I still feel I’m on my way to being an artist. But I remember some specific moments when I knew that art is what I wanted to do. I was always drawing as a child and when I reached adolescence I started sculpting in chalk and writing poems, but for me it was as much a part of my life as eating. Then one afternoon when I was around 14, I was walking back home from a friend’s house after listening to music and discussing philosophy or whatever those conversations were! and I was very relaxed. I saw the sunset sky and it came to me: I am a poet! That’s it! And I felt happy and humble at the same time. It was as if a piece of my had found its place. A few years after that I started to put music to my poems and that’s how songwriting began. However art has been in my life, it was more of a whole than one specific discipline, because theatre, painting, writing and music have always been intertwined in my journey. When children came I had to take long breaks but art stays with me, like a loyal friend, a companion. And often like a saviour…
What are your visions for the future in the artistic arena?
Well, as I said, we are living in a struggling world – Now more than ever due to the climate crisis, which (as predicted) is increasing economic and social restlessness. So, people are awakening to the tools we have in hand to adapt to our changing planet while finding our ways out of the crisis caused by Western society which is greed and ego driven.
In the midst of corporate lies and commercial aesthetics, art is more than a tool; it’s a living agent that is already helping us to envision the next steps. I’m witnessing these days how more and more musicians, writers, visual artists and performers are joining this search for answers to where are we going from here? Many are saying it out loud: this is a time of Art for social transformation, for ARTivism. Creative people are engaging more publicly with issues affecting communities, with ethics, politics, spirituality, healing; and to me that’s the way forward in the artistic territory. We cannot pretend we are not being affected by what is going on out there, and by what is going to happen to future generations. And it doesn’t matter if your artwork is a question, a doubt or a lament, all of that is part of our role: channelling everything that the human spirit needs to explore to find clarity, to remain honest. Within that there is an opportunity for creative people to inspire and be inspired.
What projects are you currently carrying out?
At the moment I’m focusing on music with our new little band Anairda & the Anarkistas that we started this year. There, I play with three wonderful musicians and human beings: Martha Nash, Michael Q. Klein and Shannon Green. We’re gigging and recording while developing our repertoire of socially engaged songs. I am also the ongoing coordinator of Feminist Fusion, a community arts project in Plymouth that runs as a regular event, combining support for women’s art and a public dialogue about patriarchal oppression. You can find both on Facebook!
As Artaud used to say, art has the social duty of letting out the anguish of its era.
And as Picasso used to say: the inspiration exists, but it must find you working.