I went this morning, July 4th, to photograph this tree in Nonsuch Park . I think its an apple tree although the fruit was immature and sparse. A day to commemorate America’s declaration of independence? Really a celebration of superiority! According to a CBS poll published today 25% of Americans don’t know who they fought in the War of Independence. It is worth recalling that America has been at war constantly since the start of this century. The war against Al Queda is unlikely to become a 100 year war, as some Americans have enthusiastically suggested. It can start to unwind, now that it has served its purpose of leaving behind so much turmoil that no serious threat can easily emerge. But, there will be other wars.
This will be the century that America implicitly makes its ‘declaration of dominance’ and its armies will be used in ways that cause instinctive alarm but make perfect sense to scholars of geopolitics. America will recoil from its own folly, as it did after Vietnam, and then launch yet more wars. War has served America well because it has not seen civilian fallout from war since the civil war, its combat casualties have been modest in relative terms and war has spurred economic growth, technological development, global power and trade dominance.
As artists we are powerless to take direct action against these colossal mechanics of state and history. So what kind of art are we to make? What are we to celebrate, uncover, challenge, abstract, distill and reveal? Just as the soldiers will make 21st century war in new and extraordinary ways, we too will make life affirming images and stories that celebrate and unlock in new dynamic ways, that fuse technology and human passion. Those institutional curators who seek to define art with introverted agendas, will be forgotten. In the same way that the minor wars that seemed so all important only a few years ago are now forgotten so too will these politically correct agendas float away in a fog of their own confusion. Whereas, great art (from advertising to circus) and great beauty (from cinema to architecture) from centuries ago, from decades ago and from today, will remain indelibly written into our our experiences, our memories, into the consciousness of who we are and what we value.