The Group Letter – July 2011:

by Geoff Hall on July 30, 2011

July, 2011. Oslo and the Artist’s Responsibility


Dear Arts Mentoring Group,

The events which unfolded this month in Oslo should cause serious reflection from us as artists; stirring thoughts about our identity and purpose in this democratic and free society.

My friend Andrei Tarkovsky wrote:

“The artist has no right to an idea to which [they are] not socially committed, or the realisation of which could involve a dichotomy between [their] professional activity and the rest of [their] life.”

Where do we stand on this issue? Is there a dichotomy between our art and our social, spiritual commitments? Do we complain about the selfishness of an individualistic society, when our art exemplifies it?

When you see the pictures of the young people scanning across your TV screen (aged 14, 15, 18) do you see that tragedy has given birth in the 21st Century to a breed of Nietzschean Superman, who through hate and brute-force brings about his ‘Will’ for a new society and a ‘conservative revolution’?

It is nothing new these days to feel a sense of powerlessness, anonymity and disaffection. It is nothing new to sense that we are disenfranchised, somehow dislocated from the mainstream of European or Western culture. In the light of this, how should we live? In the light of the Memorial Service last weekend in Oslo Cathedral, when leaders were finding it difficult to hold back the tears whilst addressing their nation, how should we see the work that we do?

Is it something to while away the time between ‘proper jobs’, or do we sense, know, the call of God on our lives to make a difference, to re-imagine our world so that others can know hope, can sense redemption is close at hand? Are we the new avant-garde? Darn right we are!

This is a huge challenge, but do we subscribe to a worldview of private faith and public religion, whereby we leave our faith to be represented publicly by a religious institution and thus keep our personal faith private, or perhaps bravely share with a bunch of close friends? Why do we paint, sculpt, write stories and songs, dance or perform poetry? How can we move from the personally expressive to the culturally transformative? How can we participate in the cultural mainstream, break the dams of ‘sacred and secular’, ‘private and public’?

Here are some snapshots of this world, thanks to my soulmates Transition and their song ‘Ghosts’. Within this song is the sonic landscape of lament.


buried underneath an avalanche of fear / haunted by images of the past


The history of Europe is full of images of victims, it is a kind of haunting. This history of tragedy has now been brought up-to-date with the events in Norway. We have not learnt the lessons necessary to create a society of equality, freedom and justice. We have created a society based on vested interests. We don’t emancipate, we enslave; for sex, for trade, for the sheer hell of it, because we can!

And again, reminiscences of Oslo resound in the sonic landscape of ‘Ghosts’


these young eyes have really seen too much for comfort


If we are to break this spell, if we are to exorcise the Ghosts of the past, we need to come together and show that an alternative is possible, that it is explored, but not explained in our art. Until? Until,


your ghosts are laid to rest / they can’t find you here / and the fears that shook your heart / can’t hurt you any more


Oslo has left an impression on me. What is my response? I can either resist being moved by it and continue as before, or I can be moved to resist the haunting of the West with its human catastrophes.  Such catastrophes are our failure to value each and every life as special, as sacred. How can I hide from this? How can I not see my calling and vocation as a re-imagining and re-describing of reality so that others are inspired to engage, to participate, to relocate in the landscape of the future, resting in the arms of hope. In doing so hate doesn’t win, doesn’t grip me so tightly that I respond in kind and participate in the madness? (For when I resist hate, Breivik and his kind fail!)


Am I up to this? I hope so, as there is so much at stake.


Peace and Love to you all,




Geoff, Brilliant, moving and insightful observations as always. I would just say this: The world has definitely moved (on all continents) from the once held ideal belief in social change and social enlightenment through established, recognized, accepted institutions (such as government, the family, the media) to an attempt at change outside these establishments (blogs, terrorism, vigilantes). Although independent thought can be a welcome change, independent thought without the buffer of scrutiny by rules, morals and codes of conduct inherent in established institutions can have very dire consequences on society. And the recent events in Oslo are an unfortunate and prime example of this.

by Heather on July 31, 2011 at 3:31 pm. Reply #

Hi Heather,

Thank you for your thoughts on this. I hope you are well!

I think true social and cultural change, what we might call lasting change, comes through authentic community. We need to rediscover this for the Arts, so that ‘rules, moral and codes’ are not set by organisations or monolithic institutions, but through living ‘epistles’, letters from the heart of the community.

Independent thought for me isn’t the way to this, for we need to have a shared spiritual heritage, language and beliefs that are animated in our life together, in our work together. Call it co-dependent thought? I think we’ve had enough of charismatic individuals stirring up the crowds to take revolutionary action. European history is full of this kind of stuff and look where it has led us. How is it in America?

Yes, the times they are a-changing! We need to be at the forefront of this change and not cowering behind the walls of institutions trying to protect our beliefs. Lasting change is brought about by the subversion of salt or yeast!



by Geoff Hall on August 1, 2011 at 9:50 am. Reply #

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