art/work in the context of war


I have always been working in a context of war, every day of my working life. That means i have been receiving money to survive in exchange for my labor while direct militarized violence, police violence, domestic violence and structural violence has persisted every day all around me near and far. in that context the only thing that ever changes is wars’ proximity to me — physical and emotional and economic and cultural and digital proximity to me. My ability to close my eyes to it, to continue existing (is this my chief function–to exist and to persist?) is some kind of willful act.

It is not even as though I pretend I am not implicated, but simply that I always believe i cannot change myself enough. The conceivable idea that i do go on living my life as though i am not more connected, as though i cannot see that i am always and ever implicated. that i have the to audacity to go on living, doing something that is unrelated to the direct life support of another person. That is not useless guilt or shame that is simply a fact.It will always be uncomfortable to create A/art as Work in the context of war(s) raging all around me, near and far. It is a fact which makes me deeply uncomfortable, a fact with which i struggle. Each day i make the decision to continue to make art — knowing full well wars rage and people are dying. I am not always sure it is ” the best ” decision, but it is a decision, a decision one of many.

In words and in small actions and in small displays I can promote nonviolent resistance, i can find ways to support others who are in the direct face of violence, to stay committed to nonviolence in my own personal life, to work harder to stay nonviolent in my communication, to divest where i can from military funding, to find ways to support others to divest and to conscientiously object to war, object to policing, and object to retributive and reactive violence. To stand with others peacefully. To resist nationalism, always. To support the free movement of people and the housing of unhoused people who wish to be housed, without the requirement that they give up their freedom to work–legally and in the work of their choice–in exchange for my hospitality. To pressure my government to make policies that make that possible (and this requires of me a civil engagement that resists monolingualism).

Each day when I make art it is a political decision that i am not immediately doing something else, standing at front lines and at food lines. Therefore any art that i make is political. It is also a commitment to my personal joy and to my personal mental health, which hopefully brings joy to others. It is hopefully a minor gesture towards re-conceiving that we are connected through our bodies, hopefully a minor intervention into the conversation(s), the beginning of dangerous ideas that help us to imagine new worlds. That is the best that art can be, if I can manage to be at my best in the face of all this war. but i do not deceive myself that my art is not funded, directly or indirectly, through military industrial structures, that i am not deeply connected with the german and american state, who export weapons and fund illegal wars, who i wait for my retirement from and will receive it if they hand it to me, and from whom i took corona help money from, and from whom i apply for artist grants from. and i do not deceive myself that private corporations who are part of the network of promoting my artwork are not also funding military AI and other arms of a very tangled web of direct and structural violences.

i am not deceiving myself and still — here i am making a choice. and so long as our labour is always perpetuated in a context in which war(s) are always perpetuated we are always entangled and there is simply no denying that.