Project Citizen

In his essay ‘Weaving as Metaphor and Model for Political Thought’, Arthur C. Danto examines Plato’s position of the arts within society. He writes, “the arts are marginalized: they are marginal in the universe as a whole, having only the substance of illusions, and they are more than marginal in Plato’s ideal state, because the artists are to be driven into exile as inimical to the political well-being of its citizenry.” The essay goes on to explain that for Plato the visual arts, poetry and even music were imitations of the world created for amusement and therefore of little value. But, metaphors associated with the process of weaving are used throughout his writings and the woven, or crafted, object is valued for its symbolic and functional purpose.

I am reading this essay after sending off my application to become a Canadian citizen. I have lived in Canada for 14 years, when we first arrived I was seventeen and so I have never voted in an election. As someone who considers themselves politically engaged, this lack of voice has fed into my decision to take on citizenship. As an artist, having a voice is important. Taking on the citizenship of a place seems like a performative act especially when I could quite comfortably live here for the rest of my life as a permanent resident.

Being an artist in Canada, a place of diverse cultures and varied landscapes, we are most often engaged in a local art scene within a global art market, rather than one specific to the country within which we work. Beyond funding from the Canada Council, it is rare that notions of Canada, as a whole, come into play. The country seems impossible to consider as a whole and I find myself more engaged by the details of the regional that can be pieced together into a global conversation. What would Plato think of the position of artists today? We are certainly still marginalized but we have also created our own kind of societal structure that, at times, exists outside of physical borders and boundaries. Maybe that is an idealistic thought but Plato’s writing was about an ideal state.

It could take up to two years to actually receive my citizenship and in the meantime there is a test and a ceremony to be attended. I am curious as to what questions may come about though this process. While I will always be a British citizen by birth, there is a gain and a loss in making the choice that I am still grappling with, even with the paperwork sent away. There are also questions as to what the process means outside of my own personal experience. What does it mean to grant citizenship to someone else in a place that is still questioning the ownership of land? What knowledge of this place is deemed to be important for the becoming of a citizen? I am sure you will hear much more from me on the topic and maybe some new work will come out of it too!

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