Traditional culture and community art

There was a time when I dismissed traditional art as a medium for socially engaged practice. As a young community artist, I thought only contemporary forms could explore current issues. Like all prejudices, this was rooted in ignorance: I knew almost nothing about traditional arts. It was researching the Scottish fèisean movement that opened my…

Music Matters

Music matters

 • There’s so much to say about this film that it’s better to say nothing, except that it reminds of something Phil Ochs once wrote: ‘ah, but in such an ugly time the true protest is beauty’. Thanks to Lukas Pairon for telling me about the film.

Kanibadam Theatre Team

Theatre and community

It’s been a while since I last added anything here, partly because I’ve been meeting artists whose work is supported through the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation in Central Asia. As ever, I came back inspired by what people do in very challenging circumstances, and how much it matters to those involved; I will…

Two Cheers for Democracy 2

I believe in doubt, part two

I do not believe in Belief. But this is an age of faith, where one is surrounded by so many militant creeds that in self-defence, one has to formulate a creed of one’s own. Tolerance, good temper, and sympathy are no longer enough in a world which is rent by religious and racial persecution, in…

Complaints Choirs 4

Sing out your bile

In Finland when a lot of people start complaining they might be called a ‘valituskuoro’, or a Complaints Choir. Two Finnish artists have made a reality of that metaphor, not just once but again and again around the world. In 2005, Tellervo Kalleinen and Oliver Kochta-Kalleinen suggested creating a choir to sing about people’s complaints…

What Ali Wore

Who is the artist here?

Zoe Spawton is a 30 year old Australian working in a Berlin café. Ali Akdeniz is an 85 year old Turkish tailor, who also lives in Berlin. Since 2012, Zoe has been photographing Ali on his regular walks past her workplace and posting the portraits a blog called What Ali Wore. When it was named…

Photograph: Martin Argles/The Guardian

Why art is for grown ups

Greer:       And no matter what he confesses to, the narrator is always invulnerable. Levi:         Because he is in control. The author is omnipotent and can create the reality he wants. The question of whether art can speak truth – even when it is obviously invented – has been debated since the time of…