‘Them And Us’ – Grayson Perry Talks Politics

The English artist's unique interpretation of politics and culture

The Grayson Perry talk ‘Them and Us’ provided a fresh, fascinating and unique perspective on the political system and influence of culture on this system through the words of one of the most well-known artists of the 21st century.

One of the main premises of this talk was the Breitbart doctrine: ‘Culture is upstream from politics’. The interpretation Perry took from this was that everything stems from culture and our identity within society, and to influence politics this is vital to take into account. Being an artist himself, much of Perry’s work centres around political ideas, most recently his duo of vases in response to the 2016 Brexit vote, and within lots of these works, his political opinions are evident. This makes it clear the focus Perry as an individual places on the influence of art in the world of politics. This concept of identity, and how we view ourselves, according to Perry, is hugely important in how we view the world around us, and a section of the talk included the audience voting for how they would describe themselves from a list of criteria, ranging from one’s place in society, age, and level of education. He argued that all of these things contribute to our interests which then influence our views, which is indicative of the way culture influences politics.

Another key aspect of Perry’s talk was the way in which he translated the issues of the political system today into terms relevant to his life and art. Having recently been the curator of the Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition, a portion of the talk consisted of the audience being shown a series of artworks that they voted to either have in or out of the exhibition had they been curator. There were varying results, with people being at either end of the spectrum, either loving or hating a work, which represented the issues within democracy today that arise from a vote of any kind – the polarisation caused as a result of people having completely differing views and seeing things in a personal perspective that others may find hard to understand. Perry translated this into illustrating the lack of understanding and unity of people within the political system. He described this as what he calls ‘diaphobia’ - the fear of being told what to think, which is responsible for this polarisation and lack of comprehension of other’s views, reasoning which he applied to the 2016 Brexit vote that created a clear and continued divide in Britain between the two opposing sides. This was a fascinating perspective – he implemented a clear yes or no vote on art, a very subjective subject matter, which indicated the complexities of the issues not addressed and the polarisation caused when people’s options are restricted and they are forced to make a clear cut choice. This established the similarities between the political and art worlds, both of which having the ability to incite debate and effect society.

Overall, Perry managed to form complex and interesting analogies linking the art world to the political one and in doing so highlighted what he believes to be the issues of the political system, as well as the importance of culture and identity in politics, providing a truly unique and fascinating perception of the political world from the point of view of an artist.

Alice VII