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UERJ 2013

The art of difference

Mutuality in recognizing and negotiating difference is crucial for people to deal with their past and the future; it is also essential in the process of creating a culture of responsibility. How can this be achieved and what is the role of art in this process?

1A vision based on ideologies solves both challenges of sharing – the interpretation of the past and the projections of the future. But ideologies are somehow “total”, if not totalitarian, because there is not much space for serious public negotiation. Individuals, then, lose their integrity or are restricted to their private spheres and, in the end, their memories become part of the dominant identity discourse, their aspirations are delegated. Even in less obvious systems of ideological rule, where individual subscription to the official story line seems to be consciously voluntary and collective memories are willingly encouraged for the sake of collective identities, the negotiation of difference is often not welcome: exclusion happens quickly 2and non-conformist doubts produce suspicion.

A democratic vision – shared aspirations for the future, based on negotiated interpretations of the past that respect diversity – is necessarily found in complex processes of private and public discourse and participatory and inclusive culture. Yet, politics tends to reduce complexity and engineer the balance between the individual and the collective rather than invest in processes of negotiation. We have learned, 11though, that this social engineering is a phantasm, largely limited and limiting, and, even if successful, often creates paranoid and fatal structures of homogeneity by trying to mould memories and hopes.

Humankind has gathered impressive knowledge about the limitations of the human will and the failures of such “engineering”. 12Nevertheless, despite this, and maybe even because of it, we cannot give up trying the 3impossible: to create conditions for equality and solidarity for individuals to flourish. These conditions should be accompanied by narratives of a just, fair and free commonwealth of all. If history and memory seem to make this dream an 4unlikely scenario, can art play this part?

The role of art is precisely to keep inspiration alive, to deconstruct ideology, to 5recall the necessary dream of freedom, of the individual and of the common good beyond the “either/or” and beyond simplicity. In this sense, art in general prevents false hopes, and thus generates hope in the most paradoxical way: the only way of hoping that reaches beyond the private sphere without some kind of ideological distortion.

What makes art so unique? And why? Because the best narratives of art are purpose-free, uniquely non-instrumental, simply human. Art narrates what we don’t understand in 7enlightened ways. Artists in particular offer a wealth of 6unseen perspectives and 8unexpected pathways of human exploration. Art makes us aware that all memories are personal, despite the power of collective narratives. Arts and culture empower people to think freely, to imagine the 9unimagined, to feel responsible across borders and boundaries. Hopefully, the narratives of the future will be 10intercultural – and art will be the ally in the art of difference that needs to be further developed. “Art is about difference, art is difference”, as stated by Igor Dobricic*. And it is difference that will be at the origin of the new bonding narratives of confidence.

Gottfried Wagner

*Igor Dobricic – dramaturgo sérvio

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