Introduction -- OR -- What this Project is All About
For many years I have believed unequivocally in the freedom of the artist to be absolutely irresponsible, i.e., to follow his or her inspiration wherever it may lead. And, although I, at various points in my life, have been actively political, and have always recognized the importance of politics, I have always had a certain amount of disdain for "political" art, which all too often does more for the artist than the cause allegedly being promoted. There have been some exceptions, however, and they have begun increasingly to intrigue me. One of these exceptions is Bertolt Brecht, a very complex artist who began as something of a nihilist and became a very "political" artist indeed. I find certain works of his irresistably powerful, though I'm still not sure whether this is because of or in spite of their "message." And, if I strongly disagree with certain aspects of his politics, I must admit that his single minded devotion to the ideals of socialism has always impressed me.
I am also very interested in, and disturbed by, the many contradictions in his personality and career: his deep cynicism and hatred of authority vs. his almost slavish attitude toward the most authoritarian aspects of Marxism and Stalinism; his careful cultivation of a "worker's" image vs. his love of luxury, fine clothes, etc. -- his refusal to completely break with the bourgeois life style of his childhood and youth; his hatred of capitalist exploitation vs. his blatant exploitation of so many of the remarkable women in his life, who collaborated on projects with him, with little or no credit or payment, and who, in some cases, actually seem to have written works attributed to him. All these concerns will, one way or another, for better or worse, leave their mark on my project.
In order to explore my own ambivalence regarding the role of politics in art and, at the same time, attempt, in some way, to come to terms with certain aspects of Brecht's life and work, both admirable and contemptible, that have so to speak "haunted" me for years, I decided to embark on this rather unusual project, a strange combination of drama, music, essay, WEB site, celebration, critique and possibly much more, a perpetual "work in progress" which in some sense already exists as complete in itself, yet will continue to develop for what I expect to be many years.
As I wrote several months ago to Tanja Cummings, who has been of great assistance to me from the outset of this project, "I could never concieve of creating ANY work that was not first and foremost exciting to me as a work of art. This is IMO opinion where, at certain points, Brecht goes wrong, where he writes at times solely to fulfill a political mission, to be "politcally correct." In his best work, he is always first and foremost an artist, which tended to create problems for him later (so often he finds himself revising earlier work to fit his political ideas at a later date). So I want to examine this: my desire to encompass in my work political issues, to ask the question whether a work of art *can* be political, what are the risks this entails, both to my art and to my person, and why certain political works can be so compelling *as works of art.* (Some of my favorite works are overtly political: e.g. Breughel, Grosz, Brecht, etc)."
I'll be having more to add on such matters in future. And, of course, will, whenever I get some free time, be continually contributing new materials to this project. So please stay tuned.