The Essence of Every Society is Freedom of Expression
Posted on June 8, 2020
I originally wrote this article in 2018 and reprise it for you here on today’s bestowal of Professor King’s Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM): “For service to the contemporary visual arts”. Reading it now, in light of the Black Lives Matter protests leading to the US Presidential Election this November, I’m amazed at how much more relevant its message has become.
When asked about her new role as Enterprise Professor at the Victorian College of the Arts in Melbourne, Australia, in 2018, Natalie King framed the humanity-creativity paradigm perfectly.
Talking to Paul Dalgarno of the University of Melbourne about the imperative of nurturing in creativity, Natalie observed a nexus between process and psyche:
We live in perilous times yet there seems to be a genuine sense of hope and optimism on the Faculty’s Southbank campus.
Without creativity in all its forms: of art, dance, design, the written word, oratory, philosophy and more, we definitely lose what it means to be alive.
Freedom of expression is rarely enshrined in a constitution. Most Western democracies take its right for granted absent of legislative fiat. But in the name of the Global War on Terror we’ve all in the past decade, acquiesced to the gradual whittling down of what freedom, in fact, is.
No clearer evidence is offered than the groupthink that erupts in violence these days: at the invitation of a guest speaker, the publication of literature, the expression of political thought or opinion manifested in … art.
Without knowing it, Western Civilisation has rushed beyond the stifling impact of statute and surveillance. We’ve voluntarily regressed in mindset to the pitchfork and torch, sliding the promise of the 21st century back to the witch-hunt and inquisition.
The entire concept of fake news—rather than calling it for what it truly is, a lie or propaganda—has insinuated itself into the suggestion that reality can only emanate from those bestowed with titles such as magnate, CEO, influencer, pundit or official.
But it’s the creativity of the expressive soul, that can seal this abyss.
We think that technology has caused today’s evils. Indeed it has facilitated some: bullying and anxiety among them. Yet, look closely at where we are right now, technologically speaking, and you’ll see we’re not much further on than the introduction of the Windows PC in the 1980s. We may have the Internet on our phones but the pressures we feel today, did not begin there.
Rather, it’s globalisation and oligopoly that have brought about the depreciation of our products and services, the vandalism of our architectural heritage, the denuding of our habitats and the speeding up of our lives.
We’ve closed factories and dealt the fate of the career. We’ve colluded in denuding social obligation knowing that crises die more rapidly than ever in a 24-hour news cycle. We’ve let violence infect our schools squeezing what little is left of educator morale in a profession yearning to teach metaphysical possibility, historical nuance, anthropological wonder and how we all may better dream.
So that’s where the poet’s voice comes in. The painter’s canvass, the thespian’s wit, the gardener’s landscape, the philosopher’s manifesto, the dancer’s weave, the writer’s story and the musician’s note.
It’s these that can rekindle the beacon of inspiration: to see, to talk, to debate, to build—and we must do all we can to caress and unfetter it.
If anything it’s the role of creativity to enrapture, as Aaron Sorkin portrays through his “West Wing” fictional Poet Laureate, Tabitha Fortis, who says:
An artist’s job is to captivate you for however long we’ve asked for your attention. If we stumble into truth, we got lucky.
What’s better than art mimicking art? For as Natalie concurs, in the nature of creativity lies hope. Put it another way: Creativity is freedom, freedom is hope and hope is future.
© 2020 Adam Parker.
Picture credit: © 2020 natalieking.com.au