Survey of Arts Management

Course blog for American University PERF-570, Fall 2014

A New Kind of Art for a New Kind of War

I thought that little quote in this article was particularly apt. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been different for servicemen and women in a lot of ways, most notably that they are what is considered 360/24/7 – combat can occur at any time, any place around you, even when you think you are safe. Coupled with the extreme threat from IED’s and the disconnect between virtually seeing your family and being totally cut-off, it’s no wonder that vets are coming back with some demons. So if this kind of warfare is so different, maybe we need a different kind of art to reflect it?

That’s the idea behind BASETRACK Live, a multimedia/multi disciplinary show currently running at Julliard. It’s designed by a vet who fought in Fallujah and Ramadi, and it’s a blend of hip hop, art, theater, visual arts, and video. We’ve talked in the last few weeks about the function of art, in the sense of asking ‘What can art do for us, as a society?’ This is one of the things that the arts can do best: reflect the human experience in a way that makes sense of it. It’s not about healing, although healing is hopefully a byproduct. It’s about witnessing, and refraction, and ensuring that people (like vets) no longer feel so alone.

I wrote a play called Fallujah as my senior thesis. Long story short, it’s about the combat experience of veterans and working on it changed my life. It’s seen a few productions, and a few awards, and even a production at the Kennedy Center, but this best thing about it? The thing that confirmed to me that my voice as a theater artist was perhaps the best thing I had to offer to the world? It was when audience members would come up to me after the show and say ‘I didn’t want to watch that, because it was too close to my experience, but I made myself watch. So thank you.’ I believe that’s why we do what we do: to make these moments more, and better, and louder.

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2 comments on “A New Kind of Art for a New Kind of War

  1. emkais
    November 12, 2014

    Evan, I really appreciate your story illustrating this take on why artists do what they do. We continue to talk about what drives artists to do what they do. And it’s oftentimes been said because they can’t help themselves. Which I can get, but not really. Ever the pragmatist (or maybe I’m behind in my quest for self-actualization), I don’t understand the drive to do something just because you need to. However, I can understand doing something because of the feeling you describe, and the reverberations you created around you, and the way you were emotionally linked to people. I think this is the same feeling that Professor Taylor mentioned in the class discussion about development. It’s this feeling that makes people give money, and work hard. Thank you for highlighting how this is one of the benefits of art to society. Sometimes they’re hard to see or quantify because they’re easier felt.

  2. laurenelizabethdickel
    November 12, 2014

    This was a really interesting article and I am so glad you pointed it out. I agree with you Emily, I am not sure I understand professor Taylor’s comment “Many artists do art simply because they have no other option or no choice”. While I don’t agree entirely with this, I do know that art, in all its forms, provided a unique way we can express our emotions and humanity. It is a powerful tool for self discovery and release. This example wonderfully demonstrates the ability theatre and music have in expressing aspects of humanity hard to quantify or even clearly explain. I was just posting about this particular topic in my blog post about the 25 year anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall light installation.
    We can’t always measure the success of our creations in conventional ways, but what Evan, you say about viewer reaction, impact and becomes so much more important than a number or measurable outcome.

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