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Question 16: Do you think an artist has a specific role to play in society? If so, what is it?
The way society is set up, as far as traditional work is concerned, that is the individual works, receives wages, then pays taxes to the government so that the social system can operate. In society, the artist is the person who refuses to go along, who says, I want to give all my time and my whole life for a different purpose, to the quest for beauty or the quest to live in freedom, to be someone who can say no to things, who is free to say no to something. If you’re working for a boss, there’s a lot that you must accept, there are a lot of no’s that you can’t say, so artists represent that facet in society. The one who spends his or her time saying no to things that are abusive and saying yes to beauty. To the beauty that exists in leaves, on lawns, in the clouds that roll on by, the beauty that surrounds us and that which is created by all our artistic creators, be it in theatre, music or whatever they do, their life is given over to that, to understanding beauty and to contributing to its meaning in the universe. This is why artists have a twofold relation with society and the political sphere: artists are at once admired and feared. Admired because they give their time to beauty which others can’t do because they’re engaged in other pursuits. The artist can say no to anything and anyone, when he’s unsure, when he disagrees, he is free to say no. This is an important example for society, I feel, so that the individual can have hope, a model that reassures him in his life, so he can say, If somebody can do this, I might be able to do it too. Given that I can’t do it, at least there is someone taking care of it, of things I can’t do myself. That’s what I think is the point of having artists in society. And the more organized that society becomes, more the artistic relationship is prized. You see this in great cultures. If you compare large and small cultures, the relationship is evident. In great cultures, there is a lot more support for the arts than in the small ones, that’s obvious.