An Inquiry into Art and Literature
By Dr. Mohammad Reza Sargolzaee
Translation: Negar Kolkar
First – the power of art
The human mind is full of imagination and indulgence, while the human body is surrounded by disabilities. The mind travels to the past and the future while the body is enclosed in the present moment. The mind flies to the sky and explores the depths of the oceans while the body has neither the feathers to fly nor the gills to breathe underwater. The mind thinks of immortality, but the body is captivated by depreciation, old age, and death. Although this relentless movement of mind became the creator of technology for mankind, with inventions of airplanes or submarines, the human body limits the aspirations of the ambitious Homo Sapiens. Each of us has an endless storehouse of imagination which is personal and unique. Science and technology cannot yet meet them.
This is where man, with the weight of his unfulfilled and unattainable desires, carries a bag of deprivation and regret and sighs. Just as science and technology advance the service of fulfilling the aspirations of the human species, art can be the staff of the miracle worker who fulfills the individual aspirations of man.
A person who has learned the art of painting can visualize and share their dreams with brush and paper. One who learns the skill of storytelling creates a narrative of the world he sees and imagines; stories become part of the flow of life. One who acquires the skill of play turns this unspoken profession into a public whisper.
This is where the place of art goes beyond decorating palaces or warming the sultans’ banquets, and, becoming part of the most important human needs. Art can bridge the infinite mind and the wingless, featherless body.
Second – art and power
When art is a bridge between here and utopia, the gateway to the endless world of imagination and freedom, it becomes a powerful tool. A tool that can be used to control the minds of individuals and control society. This is where the instrument of freedom comes into service of evil. Just as in the fairy tale, the giant of the magic lamp fell from the hands of the innocent Aladdin and into the cunning hands of the wizard.
We see throughout history rulers and politicians, religions, ideologies, and marketers using art as a tool of deception or domination: Richard Nixon takes a souvenir photo with Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe is sent to Vietnam to encourage American troops, Ronald Reagan dances with Michael Jackson.
Edward Bernice, father of propaganda, addicted American women to smoking with the metaphor “smoking as a torch for women’s liberation,” Jack Nicholson promoted Jack Daniels Whisky in “Shine”, and El Pacino in “Perfume” advertised cocaine in “Original Instinct” starring Sharon Stone.
The use of art to install ideas is not new. Religion and systems of thought have used art for centuries to emotionally persuade people. If we remove the recitation of Abd al-Basit, the calligraphy of Uthman Taha, the theatrical mirrors of Ashura and the Hajj and the architecture of the great mosques from Islam, would this system of thought still be attractive to millions of people?
This is true of all religions and cultures. Christianity is fuelled by the sculptures of Michelangelo, the paintings of Leonardo da Vinci, choral music, and magnificent architecture. If you put Michelangelo and Johann Sebastian Bach in other cultural context or ideological system, they would still create masterpieces of this magnitude. Even revolutions and wars are shaped by art.
Third – us and the power of art
The Swiss-British philosopher Alain de Button, reviewing the power of art, emphasizes to social activists that if you use the tools of art less than the sellers of bigotry or war, you will not substitute peace and justice for war and oppression. Button advocates changing perspectives on nutrition, physical activity, rational consumption, healthy relationships, and caring for the environment through art.
There is a fundamental challenge facing social activists and health promoters whose economic power is small to compete with the mass media giants of stupidity, cigarette, and war dealers.
This challenge is a serious and important topic for discussion because the artist needs tools and funding. But budgets are in the hands of institutions that have seized economic resources to instill their beliefs and hence produce more content with economic benefits for their own interests. This vicious cycle of increasing economic, political, and cultural influence rotates in favour of bureaucracies that reproduce stupidity, bigotry, discrimination, and violence.
How can artists cope with the juggernauts of capitalism, imperialism, and radicalism?
They need to think of new styles, and, revolutions in form. Rococo style broke the Baroque monopoly. Bakhtin carnivals challenged the power of both church and court, removing Impressionism and expressionism from the control of aristocracy and religious leaders.
Short stories and comic poems created a new journalism that delivered literature or news. A cartoonist with a pen and paper can expose the harsh face of bias religions, or hypocritical politicians. We can challenge the reproduction of prejudice and discrimination spewed by mass media giants. But don’t compete in their game, or on their field. Build your own realm. Celebrate your art, let your lamp shine. It‘s truly healing.
Mohammad Reza Sargolzaee, teacher and psychiatrist, was born 1970 in Zabol, Sistan-Baluchestan growing up in southern Khorasan and Mashhad. When he was nine the Iranian revolution began. In 1988, he entered Zahedan Medical School and practised medicine in 1995. In 2000 was academic member of the faculty of Mashhad University of Medical Sciences. He focuses now on public education and cultural activities writing in a wide range of topics at https://drsargolzaei.com/en/ that include: The path of individualism from the point of view of Carl Gustav Jung ,Sociological Analysis of the Karamazov Brothers, Literature, the antidote to the base language, Iranian Karpman Triangle, Social contagion impulsive effecta, Foucault, Marx, Culture and Economics, Jung and Fascism, The opium of the masses or the soul of a soulless world?, The Myth of Psychiatry, Platonic Philosophy and Jungian Healer, Censorship, rumours and social capital, Utopia and ruined city, and, The phenomenon of denial. Website https://drsargolzaei.com/en/