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Art as Occasion for Meditation or Revolution

This critical view sees art as servant of:

  • Making a mandala

    Making a mandala

    the personal and psychological for reflection and meditation; religious and spiritual purposes

  • the social and political for revolution; political purposes

The opposite of the art as object approach, it emphasizes rather than rejects the affective fallacy, saying that the meaning of a work of art depends totally on how it makes the viewer/reader/listener feel (meditation) or act (revolution).

Art and religion / spirituality

Visual arts

Christian – stained glass windows in Polish churches

Buddhist and Hindu – mandalas

Mandala (Sanskrit: मण्डल Maṇḍala, ‘circle’) is a spiritual and ritual symbol in Hinduism and Buddhism, representing the Universe. The basic form of most mandalas is a square with four gates containing a circle with a center point. Each gate is in the general shape of a T. Mandalas often exhibit radial balance.

construction and destruction of a mandala

Time Lapse Making of a Mandala

Islamic art – patterns. No figures.

Islamic artist

Islamic artist

Music  and dance

Buddhist – mantra – don’t miss the audio file in the middle of the page

A mantra is a sacred utterance, numinous sound, or a syllable, word, phonemes, or group of words believed by some to have psychological and spiritual power.

singing bowls

Temple sounds

Islamic – Sufi meditation music

Whirling Darvish (usually spelled “dervish”)

Ocha – Japanese tea ceremony

Chanoyu, Sado or simply Ocha in Japanese is a choreographic ritual of preparing and serving Japanese green tea, called Matcha, together with traditional Japanese sweets to balance with the bitter taste of the tea. Preparing tea in this ceremony means pouring all one’s attention into the predefined movements. The whole process is not about drinking tea, but is about aesthetics, preparing a bowl of tea from one’s heart.



Art and politics / power

Similarly, from army marching songs (videos of Chinese military songs) to propaganda posters, from political hip-hop to South Africa’s resistance art during apartheid, art has been used by people to help bring about change in their conditions, sometimes for better, sometimes for worse.

Chinese propaganda posters (1925-2006)

Art and Revolution

Founded in 1995, A & R is an attempt to revitalize political protest through the introduction of dance, street theatre, and puppetry into political protests. Though very little exists in terms of critical practice, A & R does however support a myriad of anti-corporate, anti-globalization, housing, poverty, and criminal justice actions. A & R exists as a tactic rather than a direct, ideologically driven entity.

Kenya’s Sanaa Art Promotions (SAP)

an organisation of artists, researchers, social scientists and communication specialists active in the use of arts to promote socio-economic development within East African communities.

Founded in 1985 under Kenya’s Non Governmental Organisation Act, SAP visual and theatre arts for communication through Participatory Interactive Media Model (PIMM) to advocate for behaviour change primarily among the youth and, secondarily, through the ripple effect, the community.



Music That Changed History and Still Resonates
by Jon Pareles
NY Times, February 10, 2010

It was not lost on anyone that Mr. Obama is America’s first African-American president. “The civil rights movement was a movement sustained by music,” Mr. Obama said in opening remarks. The music, he said, “was inspired by the movement and gave strength in return.” …

If any music can claim to have changed history, it was the songs of the civil rights movement. Rooted in the hymns, gospel and rural ballads of the southland they set out to change, civil rights songs seized a moral high ground with their melodies as well as their words.

The lyrics followed through with the eloquence of sermons and slave songs, transforming them into both topical agitprop and long-term bulwarks of resolve.