Thursday, July 10, 2008

With Art Comes Responsibility

Joni Mitchell got me thinking.

It takes more than the usual Swan Lake slippers and tutus to get me to the ballet. I don’t understand narrative in motion. I need words. That’s why I’m a writer. So when my dear friend invited me to The Fiddle and The Drum, I almost passed.

“No, you have to come,” she pressed. “It’s a collaboration between the Alberta Ballet and Joni Mitchell!”

Well, that changed everything. I’m half in love with Joni Mitchell. Of course I went, and Thank Ganesh I did! The Fiddle and The Drum was the most spectacular piece I’ve ever witnessed. Joni Mitchell’s music and words gave the dance the narrative structure I needed while her photography cast in shades of toxic green gave the ballet a haunting air. It was a daring, biting criticism of the American/Albertan obsession with oil and the lengths to which we’ll go to secure something that’s only helping us slaughter our beautiful planet.

What stayed with me, conflated with this gripping dance, was a single sentence from the program. Jean Grand-Maître of the Alberta Ballet states, “as Ms Mitchell is incensed with human folly, she made it clear to me from the onset that this ballet could not be escapist entertainment when the world is in such shambles.”

I had to ask myself, “What is my art, if not escapist entertainment?” I write erotica, for Shakti’s sake! If I am producing art, must it not make a more important statement? More than just some people fucking? I felt I owed it to my fellow Canadian to produce something better.

And then I thought about
Tangled Roots, my new release. Sidestepping the entire debate of whether or not porn, erotica, and the like are socially important, I’ll simply say that this new novella redeems my body or work. Sort of. Maybe. In a way. This piece, if no other, makes quite pertinent social statements about the shape of Aboriginal identity in Canada, about systemic racism, about how internalized dominance and subordination can both manifest in the same flawed individual. It’s deep.

I’m hoping Joni would be proud.