“If artists everywhere were to give themselves over to agitprop, something essential would be lost.”

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-Gwendolyn Brooks

“At the other extreme are those who believe that, in a time of crisis, the ordinary rituals of making art must cease. [In VARIATIONS: AFTER NOVEMBER 8 –
MUSIC IN MOMENTS OF CRISIS, Lucy] Caplan notes that some of her friends have been quoting Gwendolyn Brooks’s 1949 poem ‘First Fight. Then Fiddle’:

. . . Carry hate
In front of you and harmony behind.
Be deaf to music and to beauty blind.
Win war. Rise bloody, maybe not too late
For having first to civilize a space
Wherein to play your violin with grace.

These are invigorating words, although Caplan pinpoints an inherent paradox: Brooks’s poem is ‘art sending the message that it is not yet time for art.’ If artists everywhere were to give themselves over to agitprop, something essential would be lost. To create a space of refuge, to enjoy a period of respite, is not necessarily an act of acquiescence.

-Alex Ross, MAKING ART IN A TIME OF RAGEThe New Yorker – 2/8/17

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