Basharat Bashir

The purpose of Art

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The purpose of art may be difficult to attach to single concept as it has played different functions throughout its history. Art critics and artists themselves came up with different opinions to describe the purpose of art and majority of opinions suggest that art is an expression of imagination, a powerful way of communication and the purpose of art is to experience the mysterious.  Even though these opinions do not suggest a definite concept to cling purpose of art to it but, it gives us a chance to sneak further to understand the functions of art. And if we just consider art to be a means of communication, or expression then its purpose intends to cover a whole lot of possibilities.

People tend to suggest a greater reputation for art, it’s considered to be precious, above the common, spiritual and kept with high regards. It’s not necessary that people understand the function of art but we are being fed by slogans, symbols and quotes and our sense is being domesticated to appreciate art to be of a holy purpose. We must understand that art has been often utilized as a form of propaganda and for centuries oppressive governments and power-hungry leaders manipulated art to further their own selfish motives, as well as to promote and force their ideologies.

There are many ways and mediums by which propaganda can be spread but an artwork, visual representations promise to have a greater effect. Art has been commissioned by leaders throughout history in order to exhibit the best attributes of their rule and their uncommon and heroic nature hence spreading propaganda. Propaganda is usually defined as biased or misleading information used to promote a political cause or an ideology. If we consider this definition of propaganda to be of some precision than art in itself is predisposed.

Propaganda existed in art before any other medium of human expression, and can be traced namely through the Ancient Near Eastern, Egyptian, and Greek cultures.  As art is a primary way in which people can express their love and emotions and it suits well to express love towards nation that can stand the test of time. When it comes to propaganda art plays a crucial role in attributing heroic features to an ordinary leader or a biased party. According to an article published on internet propaganda not only inhibits our sense of reality, it frequently causes us to act against our own interests. It does this by affecting the primitive parts of the brain that are unaffected by logic or consciousness but respond to images and symbols.

Propaganda is a form of publicity but it is usually negative and usually of misleading in nature. Propaganda is usually used to promote a political view or cause. Even in ancient Egypt artists were used and commissioned to glorify Pharaohs. The enormous pyramids were a clear representation of wealth and control these leaders possessed. Greece often known as birthplace of democracy also used its artists to spread propaganda. The Alexander Mosaic from the House of Faun is a copy of a classical Greek work that shows the military success of Alexander. The Alexander is depicted with no armor just to show how invincible he was.

Propaganda usually works by inciting a sense of fear among the majority of people from a certain group or community. People are customized to believe that they are under threat and an ordinary leader or a party is projected as the ultimate savior. In past few months we have witnessed practicality of this principal of using fear and endless repetition of slogans and images. It is obvious that powerful leaders and oppressive governments tend to take control over mass media to promote their ideology, but in India cinema plays an important role to promote an initiative. People often imitate and copy film stars even ministers use phrases of movies to support their ideologies.  The recent movies on Ex-Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Narendra Modi are the best examples of how artists can be exploited to promote propaganda.

With our high regard for art, let’s not forget that art and artists can be brought down to promote a political agenda. Throughout history  art and artists have played their role in shaping the political landscape of a particular place. And  the current scenario clearly suggests that both  artists and their art (creativity, skill) can be exploited as an definite medium to promote propaganda.

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