Fight or Flight? – Art in times of uproar

For many of us, 2016 has been a rough year — a year that brought as much change as uncertainty. It is a year of terror, a brutal war in Syria, and of political developments that are increasingly dividing our western societies. For some families these holidays were harder because political differences within their families were stronger, more visible than ever before. There are four possible manifestations for art in times of uproar. They all give different answers to why art is relevant or even more relevant.

Art flees

The passing away of great musicians in 2016 seems like a metaphor – art withdraws itself from the world. This is a very old idea. When times are bad like in war or during epidemics some believe there is no space for art or beauty. Art flees.

Art as a flight within

The very German name “Biedermeier” stands for a period in Germany between revolutions in the early 19th century. After the French Revolution and the end of Napoleon’s wars, Europe was in a stage of restoration, where the former societal structures of a solid monarchy were put back in place. They called it: making Europe great again.

People were frustrated with their lack of influence and withdrew from politics. They focused on their lives inside their houses, trying to create cozy, comfortable places that sheltered them from the outside world. Interior design and architecture boomed, in an attempt to make living areas warm and beautiful. The arts in general flourished. The middle class started to take piano lessons. Art was the medium to bring beauty into lives and keep the mind busy and distracted from the cold, ugly world outside. This is a typical flight reaction.

art in times of uproar - Guernica

Picasso’s Guernica

Art that fights back

There have always been artists who used art as a medium to protest. With words, images, music, or performances, political art expresses anger, frustration, and awareness, and addresses political issues directly. One example is Picasso’s Guernica that powerfully illustrates pain and sufferings of war.

Art can be a sharp weapon, and some artists even lost their lives as a result.

The different fight

Art can have a political impact without being directly and explicitly political. It isn’t formed by the message of a famous artist but by a huge group of individuals engaging in the arts. When we pursue art, when we develop our creativity, we transform. And there are two consequences of this transformation that can deeply affect the conflicts, problems, and difficulties that we are facing these days.

To demonstrate what I mean let me start with an utopian hypothesis. Let’s imagine how this world would look like if every single person on this planet was regularly using their creative potential. What would change if everyone would seek creative challenges on a daily basis? We would have more walls filled with paintings, notebooks scribbled full of poems – nice, but what else?

We would see less violence. Violence is born though the feelings of frustration, purposelessness, suffering. People get aggressive when they feel powerless, and not seen or valued. They then try to make a dent in the world by destruction. There are different forms of violence like running amok, terrorists, as well as all forms of self-harm.

Art to work through pain

When we work creatively we don’t eliminate pain; we find a way to release it. We work through pain, which gives us a feeling of being in control. It shakes off the state of paralysis. The more we develop our innate creativity, the more we are in synch with our true and ultimate self. And when creativity leads us to the state of “flow” we experience a sense of fulfillment and happiness.

Secondly, if everyone was trained to be creative, everyone would be prepared to find new solutions for the pressing issues and problems we face. It has been proven that great ideas arrive through the generation of a high quantity of ideas. How many more ideas would there be to choose from if everyone learned to think outside of the box, bringing in his or her own unique perspective that is founded in his or her own unique life experience?

In so many areas (international politics, environment, etc.) we are stuck between old alternatives that don’t work anymore. We need fresh new ideas right here where we live, as well as for global issues, and we need more people contributing to those ideas. We need the mass-intelligence of creative thinkers all over the world.


I believe that the success of this planet or country is not going to come from a leader that will install brilliant ideas and solve our problems. I believe that the solutions have to grow from the bottom up. For better or worse, society is transformed through mass movement.

I believe creativity appeals to our higher and better selves and I believe that more creativity will make this world a better place to be in.

My goal for 2017 is to spread as much creativity as I can. Therefore, I want to help initiate ripple and snowball effects that reach people that are not aware of their creative abilities. And I want to spread understanding about the necessity to be creative. Creativity is not a luxury.

This will be my contribution for the coming year. Some new ideas and projects to support this are in the planning. Stay tuned…
Happy new year!


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