Letter From the Editor

Dear reader,

When I decided that this month we were going to deal with engaged art, I had absolutely no idea what was going to happen. I didn’t know the brutality that exists in the world would manifest itself in the worst ways. I didn’t know that this topic would be more relevant than ever.

I read the news every morning. The first thing I click on is the live updates from Ukraine. Today, as I’m writing this, I read that president Macron says that the worst is yet to come. I see Ukrainians being brave and strong and I’m in the utmost awe of their resilience. And all I can think of, all I imagine you can think of, is what can I do to help?

We have just witnessed the disaster that was the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan. Today, the country is left with half of its people unemployed, with the estimate that 97% of the people could be living under the poverty line by mid-year according to the United Nations.

We have seen a pandemic that devastated the world, broke families apart and left psychological marks in our lives. We observe the daring consequence of climate change that threatens our existence on this planet every day.

And now, we see a situation that proves that war is not in Europe’s past. We are watching a terrifying challenge to democracy and values of freedom that have been nurtured for the last 75 years in this continent. We try to do our best, knowing that it will affect many innocent Russian people with the hope to stop the not so innocent ones.

As I go to performances, many give emphasis to how surreal it is to talk about anything, to provide escapism in such a situation. But I do wonder: why is that? Art, before it is even engaged, is a tool through which we learn empathy, we learn about representation and recognition. If exercising your empathic muscles now is not appropriate, I don’t know when it will be.

More than that, I’m left with a question of what can art do?

What is the power of engaged art in such situations? Propaganda, one may say. But is it all? Isn’t there an inherent power in the arts that moves our hearts? There must be a reason, after all, that resistance movements always have some artistic practice coming along with them, no?

Throughout this month, we will question the theme of engaged art. We will wonder about the different kinds of engaged art, the different means used, the purposes and the consequences it can have. Meanwhile, we will support how we can those who need our help more than ever. And we will remain hopeful that we can, indeed, do something to help.