Spotted in the 6th Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art. We all know him or will know him in a few. Yanis Varoufakis. Known as the Former Greek Finance Minister, he was one of the key figures to speak in the 6th Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art.
Whether one praises Varoufakis or not, is really irrelevant.
His speech had something to offer in the intended audience and beyond: the interpretation of art and music under the umbrella of the political. In my attempt to catch all the important pieces of what he was trying to offer – I had to listen to the speech several times and scrutinise it- I must admit that at first I was shocked. Varoufakis was addressing an audience obviously interested in the arts (they were attending the Moscow Biennale after all). To start off a speech at such an event with the acknowledgement of the minor position of the Ministry of Culture into a Cabinet, especially on issues regarding policy changes, was quite a challenge. After all, Varoufakis has always been like that. Unexpected. As I was moving along, I realised the whole essence of his argument, and the reason of his presence in the Biennale, which at first was unclear.
Varoufakis is no art critic and we know it. His attempt and process to isolate the aesthetic from the musical has always been outlandish to him. Interestingly, however, he does not undermine and adversely understands completely the essentiality of art within a society, as some political figures have failed miserably in doing (I’d rather not elaborate right now, maybe some other time). Instead, as a young radical, he used – perhaps consciously or subconsciously – the importance of the arts in understanding various political and social conflicts. Most importantly, the message is that art has something important to offer when investigating the culture of one’s country and more specifically events that have stigmatised the domestic and international arena. The Guernica for instance, which provides the essence of the Spanish Civil War. Through the eye of the artist an individual ought to recognize any economic or political difference or even indifference for that matter.
So far so good, I completely agree with him and admire what he is trying to say. Yet, another important bit of his speech appeared to be dubious to some. The Eurozone Crisis. We’ve met him reining a parade against the Eurozone. That’s how people got to know Varoufakis. Yes, indeed, the common currency is outstandingly terribly constructed, and perhaps has failed to deliver the purpose of its existence. But, the ambiguity of his argument came along when he spent a considerable amount of time focusing on how the markets are failing, with little reference to how art and culture is influenced by that, but in the end established his point quite clearly.
I’d rather not comment on the other sections of his speech. I am choosing to reinterpret the importance of politics in the arts. But we ought to think of it outside the box, without any prejudices. The history of the world, whether it is politically or socially related, has a dirty background. Europe is no exception. The world as we know it today encourages individuality, doing things separately, hiding behind our masks. Again, European countries are no different. The effort for integration has failed. The vision for a common currency has disappointed Europeans. The reason is quite clear: European political leaders have not encouraged the European countries to combine the economic with the political, the socioeconomic with the artistic and most importantly the heritage culture of one country with the arts of another country. Instead, this lethal division has caused countries to drive apart.
Hence, the rise of individuality has had a devastating impact in promoting a collective understanding of one’s civilization. Perhaps Varoufakis was trying to address the loss of identity, which is subsequently behind the core value of the common economic currency. Or maybe he was trying to address that art and culture was undermined due to the excessive need of the powerful elite to focus on economics and politics instead of the artistic. I cannot decide.
The last statement though, says it all. I am keeping that. “Artists should be feared by the powerful”. Artists are part of the cultural industry. They are part of the aesthetic in a society. Culture is the only industry that tends to fight capitalistic ideas and go against the system, create new ideas and movements. Artists have the capability to overthrow the status quo. Something the powerful dread.
Well done Varoufakis.