HomeArticleSeven Reasons Why I Make Art (And Why You Should, Too)

Seven Reasons Why I Make Art (And Why You Should, Too)

I’ve been making a conscious effort to put out more poems and short stories of increasing quality alongside my usual output of essays on politics and the media. Here are seven reasons why:

1. There are things you can say with art that you can’t say otherwise.

In the 1957 obscenity trial over the publication of the book Howl and Other Poems, English professor Mark Schorer was called to the stand and asked to explain the meaning of lines from Allen Ginsberg’s masterpiece.

“Sir, you can’t translate poetry into prose,” Schorer replied to the prosecution. “That’s why it’s poetry.”

There is a whole spectrum of possible attacks that we can make upon the oppression machine which go largely unutilized because most revolutionary-minded voices focus solely on facts, statistics and linear arguments in conventional prose to get their point across. They do this largely because the narrative matrix which holds the oppression machine in place predominantly uses prose for its propaganda; they push back against the enemy using the same weapons they see the enemy using. But the only reason the propagandists focus on prose is because they are completely artless servants of an agenda which has no spirit. Those fighting the machine are unencumbered by such limitations, and it’s foolish not to fully exploit the weakness of our enemy using that advantage.

Films and plays get panned as preachy and ham-fisted when they try to ram a specific message down the throats of their audience, and understandably so: if someone wants to say a specific thing, they can just say it, using words. They don’t need to be wasting people’s time with a sermon dressed up as art, especially when those people are hoping to have some ineffable nugget planted deep within some tender, hidden part of themselves in the way that only art can do.

With art you can get underneath the narrative matrix and speak to an unguarded part of an audience that hasn’t been armored up by layers of establishment narrative.  Good art changes you, leaves you seeing the world a bit different in ways you can’t really articulate and for reasons you can’t explain. It opens people’s eyes to seeing things they couldn’t see before, which is exactly what we need in this battle.

2. Art often has a bigger impact.

In his manifesto, the Christchurch attacker spent paragraphs explaining how people don’t listen to charts and statistics, they respond to emotion and to memes. He explained this to show his fellow white supremacists how to circulate their ideology online in a way that will take hold and spread.

And the thing is, he’s absolutely right. A quick glance at any of the more popular leftist websites will show you that dreary sermons are the bread and butter of most revolutionary-minded content created by the true left today, and that approach doesn’t bloody work. White supremacists like the guy who just murdered dozens of Muslim worshippers the other day understand this, while people with the most wholesome ideology largely do not. We ignore this at our own peril.

It is every activist’s duty to be loud, shiny, and interesting. It isn’t enough to stand on the moral high ground and have all the correct facts and figures; do those things, certainly, but if you’re going to speak you’ve got to do it in a way that will go in. You can do this with humor, you can do it with memes, and you can do it with art. If you’re not going to use your voice to advance your healthy ideology in a way that will actually get heard, get circulated, and plant seeds and take root, then you may as well remain silent. Don’t be like those boring, artless academic types who think their rightness compensates for the fact that they’re unreadable. Shine bright.

3. Art lets you seize the means of creating culture.

“And what’s really important is, I call it, the felt presence of direct experience, which is a fancy term which just simply means we have to stop consuming our culture. We have to create culture. Don’t watch TV, don’t read magazines, don’t even listen to NPR. Create your own roadshow.”
~ Terence McKenna

The Grayzone Project‘s Ben Norton published an article the other day titled “Hollywood’s ‘Captain Marvel’ Blockbuster Is Blatant US Military Propaganda”, detailing the Pentagon’s involvement in the making and marketing of that film and others. With a few rare exceptions, Hollywood’s output can be described as one long advertisement for capitalist culture and the US war machine, and it comprises a huge percentage of the art consumed in mainstream consciousness.

Rulers used to use religion to shape culture in a way that advantages the powerful. Now, they use Hollywood.

The Pentagon and the CIA, just like hate groups, understand the reality that politics is downstream from culture. If they can shape our values, ideals and expression, they can shape the political landscape of the future.

And so can we. If everyone who wants to do away with the status quo began making art, any kind of art, of as high quality as possible and getting it seen/heard by as many eyes/ears as possible, the social engineers would be unable to streamline culture toward maintaining the status quo. It would be a grassroots artistic revolution, with true democracy of stories and true diversity instead of a bunch of actors of various ethnicities reciting scripted Pentagon propaganda.

Nobody can create great art in every possible medium, but pretty much everyone can create decent art in at least one. This doesn’t just mean paintings and poems; it can be memes, graffiti, tapestries, street performance, limericks (there’s a dearth of quality revolutionary limerick writers at the moment), anything. Whatever kind of art puts you “in the zone” where you lose track of time immersed in creation, go there. Stay with it, make it as high quality as possible, get it witnessed by as many people as possible, and start planting seeds in people’s consciousness. Not for you, but for the world.

4. Art forces us to solve problems using our imagination.

If you’ve got an image in your head, and you want to figure out how to get that image onto a canvas, you won’t be able to use your left hemisphere linguistic thinky brain to do it. This forces you to train yourself to come at a problem from outside the linear, narrative-based thought stream which dominates conventional consciousness, which is important, because that’s the mental process which got our species into this situation in the first place.

We need new ideas. Lots and lots of very, very new ideas. Our species is in big trouble, and we’re not going to get out of this mess with ideas which arise from the same looping thought patterns which got us into it. If there is an exit ramp on the highway toward dystopia and human extinction, it’s going to come from a completely unexpected direction, because it won’t be born of the cognitive patterning which got us here. Opening yourself up to inspiration and learning how to solve problems with your mind’s eye creates one more human on this planet who is capable of spotting that exit ramp.

Once you’ve started creating art and mastering the skill of generating inspired ideas from outside the conditioned mental patterns, start putting those ideas out there. If you don’t know how to implement them, share them with people who do, or put them out into public attention to see if anyone wants to use it. Don’t worry about patents and copyrights; if you’ve got an idea that would benefit the world, don’t clutch it tight for months or years hoping you can find a way to profit from it.  Get it out into the world as quickly as possible so your medicine can get into the bloodstream and come up with new ideas. There’s no limit to the number of ideas you can have, so if you stop your idea flow by holding onto one idea it’s like you’re constipating the whole process. Get your ideas out and into public consciousness as quickly as possible so you can come up with new ones, and if you see people copying them a few months later, be happy. I see ideas I’ve put out there getting reused all the time and it’s one of my favorite things about this job; I never say anything about it because I don’t want people to be shy about using those ideas. Don’t be a constipated idea hoarder.

5. Art can be useful in untangling your own personal narratives.

Creating art that will impact people necessarily means confronting parts of yourself you might have otherwise left in the dark. In order to make good art, you’ve got to get real with yourself. You’ve got to confront the nuts and bolts of your experience and give it a platform on which to speak. Creating the best art you are capable of creating on a regular basis will mean becoming more aware of yourself and what makes you tick, what stories you believe about yourself and the world but have left pulling your strings in subconsciousness instead of looking at and examining them.

Getting real with your own inner narratives gives you an understanding of how mental narrative works, and how it can be manipulated. Since narrative manipulation is the primary tool of the ruling class which benefits from the status quo, understanding it is an important part of defeating the social engineers. A regular discipline of creating art from your depths can give you that understanding.

6. Making art forces you to see the beauty in the world.

As we discussed a while back, a constant practice of looking for opportunities to experience beauty can punch a huge hole in the narrative matrix and free your mind from the manipulations of the powerful. If you are regularly engaged in facilitating the emergence of beautiful creations, you’ll find yourself in that space naturally. The narrative-fixated mind is incapable of perceiving the beauty in life as it moves by, but the artist disengages from that fixation and perceives that beauty out of necessity. The less plugged in you are to the narrative matrix of the propagandists, the better art you’ll make, and a more effective warrior against the machine you’ll become.

7. Making art lessens the grip of your inner critic.

Those who spend the most time criticizing the art of others never make art themselves, and those who make the greatest art don’t spend their time craning their necks peering around and criticizing other artists. These two mindsets are mutually exclusive. You can’t create great beauty if you allow your criticizing mind to dominate your consciousness, because if you do your attempts to allow something inspired to bubble up from below the talking, judging narrative loops will be hijacked by dead ideas about shoulds and shouldn’ts. And before you know it you’re desperately trying to scrape together enough self-confidence to create a work that looks like something which accords to those inner shoulds and shouldn’ts, which comes out like a flat, artless computer program, if at all. For the same reasons you can’t translate poetry into prose, a critic’s mindset is incapable of making art.

If you make art you’ll necessarily have to lessen the grip of your inner critic, which will have a few knock-on benefits. Firstly, life is a lot more pleasant without that asshole yammering in your mind’s ear all day about how inadequate you are and what clothes you should have worn instead. Secondly, it makes you less critical of other artists, allowing them more space to do the thing you’re trying to do. Third, without a bunch of should and oughts controlling your thought process you’re a lot more free to construct a worldview that is entirely disinterested in what everyone else believes. It gives you the sense of entitlement necessary to be an original thinker, whose mind is informed by truth rather than by what everyone else around you happens to be saying.

Put aside your inner critic and reach for that paintbrush, pen, guitar or whatever your weapon is, and start making art. Worst case scenario you give an authentic place within you a voice during your time on this planet and make some pretty things while you’re here. Best case scenario you help seize the means of creating culture from the powerful manipulators and help open up some eyes.


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Latest comments

  • I originally skipped this article, and only took a look when a friend shared it on social media. I glad I did.

    If I can be rude enough to suggest a more enticing title, “Art As A Tool For Revolution,” if not as the title, then as the subtitle.

    Thanks for all you do. Cheers, Paul

  • How I use art, performing art, to make the world a better place.

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  • Thank you! What a good essay to inspire the creative…even those of us who doodle on napkins. It’s all important!!! The drive to go somewhere new is more important than getting there.

  • I don’t object to people’s making art, of course. I do have some specific objections to specific assertions in the article.

    Re 1: First, it’s perfectly fine and common for art to have a message. The artistic form makes it more convincing and emotionally effective. It cannot be ‘translated’ in all its details, of course, but it can be explained. Second, if the content of the art is ‘ineffable’ and ‘inexplicable’, you can’t know that it really attacks the oppression machine, that it attacks it in a beneficial way, or is generally useful in any way at all apart from pure pleasurability. In particular, the content of CJ’s art is not at all ineffable and inexplicable; its message is generally very clear, and I have no objection to that, it’s the substance that I sometimes have objections to. Third, it is not true that the establishment does not use art in its propaganda; its ideology is very well represented in art, which is actually mentioned by CJ herself in 3.
    Re 2: There is room for both facts and reasoning and emotion and memes; some may specialise on one and some in the other. However, emotion and memes by themselves cannot prove that one is right – neither to others nor to oneself; only facts and reason can distinguish between those who are right and those who are not. If it is true that (most) people are uncapable of making decisions based on facts and reason and are only influenced by emotion and memes, humanity is already lost: one can seldom beat the manipulators at their own game, and if one can’t derive one’s victory from one’s being right, one is unlikely to win at all. Fascists like the Christchurch attacker are manipulators; they are wrong, so it is natural that they must appeal predominantly to emotion and memes, because facts and reason are not on their side. The left should not become like them.
    Re 3 ‘ If everyone who wants to do away with the status quo began making art, any kind of art, of as high quality as possible’: First, it obviously can’t be *any* kind of art, but it has to be art that is, itself, directed at doing away with the status quo: the fact that one has (some) subversive opinions doesn’t automatically make all of one’s art subversive. Second, I am not really sure that it’s true that ‘pretty much everyone can create decent art in at least one’ art medium. If every revolutionary started making art, whereas only the artistically capable among the reactionaries did that, the average quality of revolutionary art might become lower, which would probably harm its message on balance.
    Re 4: The premise that reason, thinking and conventional consciousness are to blame for our current situation is itself unjustified. Reason did allow us to invent nuclear energy; it is a shortage of reason that makes us risk nuclear war and our own destruction. Reason did allow us to invent industry; but it is a shortage of reason that makes it possible for us to harm ourselves by destroying our environment with it. It is only thanks to reason that we know nuclear war and pollution are a problem at all, even though we are failing to act in accordance with this knowledge.
    Re 5: There is also the possibility that the stories one subconsciously believes in might turn out, upon examination, to be utter nonsense. In that case, it would logically follow that one should neither allow them to pull one’s strings nor express them in (published) art.
    Re 7: First, I don’t think that you can usually make anything good, including good art, without some sort of inner critic. Artists throughout the ages have worked hard, often reworked their creations and generally taken into account various constraints. The inspired creator that produces art as effortlessly and naturally as a human or animal body secretes various substances is mostly a romantic myth. Second, artists do, in fact, often assess and criticise each other, even though that is not their primary job. Third, while it’s good to think originally, if there are no shoulds and oughts involved (logical or moral), the result will be nonsensical and useless ravings. Fourth, one shouldn’t just repeat what others around one are saying, but one shouldn’t be ‘entirely disinterested in what everyone else believes’, either; to have a maximally informed opinion, one should be aware of others’ opinions and the grounds for them, and one should determine whether those grounds are good enough or not.

  • Why do writers write
    despite rejection slips?

    Why do I,
    though no dancer, love
    to drink in music
    and express it as movement?

    Why spend hours
    considering the interplay
    between the form
    and the color, of flowers?

    at the core of life
    there is a living beast
    invisible but huge
    inaudible but
    those who tune their sensibilities
    finely enough
    can feel it breathing.
    Art is the means
    of that fine-tuning.

    Art can be a means
    of kicking your boat out
    from the slow shallows
    into the full, deep flood
    of mid-river.

    Art can sneak past
    that grim man in a suit
    carrying a vital message
    to the Queen.

    • Wonderful poem, Mary. It has given my heart a lift.

    • What a lovely poem.. how creative …. calm and quietly passionate.

  • Art’s all well, and good, but there are not many artists who know how to skillfully use it to be subversive. The only one I can think of is Ai Weiwei. The NZ mosque shooting was, yet, another false flag operation engineered by the security state. It’s also laughable that Caitlin seems to imply that the most wholesome political ideology is the left’s ideology, and seems to equate loud, and shiny with interesting. If she’s a leftist, I can understand why the left is losing political arguments all over the world, notwithstanding the actual history of the brutality of Marx, Lenin, Stalin, Trotsky, Mao, Pol Lot, and other so-called leftists being engineered by the deep dark state as needed opposition to their fascist ideology, which is also a leftist ideology masquerading as a right wing one. Caitlin also mentions graffiti as art because leftists love damaging the property of others by defacing it. Right wingers just love destroying so they can appropriate it by force. Leftists also typically like destroying public property, including public art, especially if their organizations receive money from sociopathic leftists like George Soros. Points 5, 6, and 7 are mostly excellent, except there are numerous obvious exceptions to her assertion that, “those who make the greatest art don’t spend their time craning their necks peering around and criticizing other artists.” Infamous rivalries abound such those between da Vinci, and Michelangelo, Picasso who was said to be a miserable prick, and Matisse (Clay Walker, an American artist, and contemporary of Picasso held more talent in one pinky finger than Picasso had in both his hands), Van Gogh, and Gauguin, and in the area of relatively talentless taggers there was King Robbo and Banksy. There are many more examples from the music world.

  • Thanks! That is pretty much a standard comment for my reaction to your pieces, but I probably don’t say it often enough. So, Thanks! In fact, I’ll pay you the highest compliment I feel I can give….. You made me think. 🙂 Which for my brain, means I want to write …. thus the sound of a clattering keyboard while breakfast cooks in the other room.
    There are of course many forms of art. I used to work as an engineer and as a programmer. I suspect neither would be first on people’s lists of types of art. But, I had a very big smile when I got to “4. Art forces us to solve problems using our imagination.” A very good description of the good parts of a profession of either engineering or programming. In both professions, you are creating, and you must use imagination to create. As I rose into management, I started describing being an engineer or a programmer as “Creative Work on a TimeTable.” That’s the trick of being successful as either in a corporate world. You are given a task, and you are given a budget and a deadline and you are supposed to meet those. But, completing the task includes imagination and being creative in finding a solution.
    I find myself agreeing that art in all its forms is a way to approach people in a way in which they are more open. I like to write political essays. But I found that nobody wanted to read them. Lately, I’ve shifted gears to trying to write novels. Often to try to make similar points. But the idea is that people might be more open to ideas when they come in through the back door rather than an in-your-face political essay. Military strategists, or at least the good ones, talk about the futility of a frontal assault, where you are charging straight into prepared defenses. Political essays often seem similar. They are a charge straight into the reader’s defenses, certainly in the case where you want to talk to someone who doesn’t begin agreeing with you. I’ve always loved good science fiction. Because good science fiction can write about this world, but set it in a different world so they can talk about it without the reader having a lot of pre-conceptions about the topic. If you try to talk about race directly in this world, everyone has preconceptions. But science fiction showed how an artist can avoid those and come in from the flank and perhaps inspire the reader to think and maybe even have different pre-conceptions than they did before they read.
    Again, Thank you!

  • Beautiful teaching Caitlin. I Love it! Art explodes the prison of our left brain dominated culture and selves, opening into infinite possibility and unexpected bliss. “Beyond ideas of good and bad, there is a field – I’ll meet you there.” (Rumi)

  • “Why do I write I write to entertain my friends and exasperate our enemies. To unfold the folded the folded lie, to record the truth of our time , and of course, to promote esthetic bliss”.:Edward Abbey.All the best to you Caitlyn love your poems and prose

  • Palloy – you haven’t seen a painting as good as a decent photograph? You either don’t get out…ever, or there are no galleries within a thousand miles of your thermodynamic neighbourhood. Get yourself to Glasgow…even one of our lovely road sweepers will point you towards a canvass or a building that should take your breath away (if you’ve any artistic recognition in your bloodstream) and leave you wondering if your f-stopped digital box of tricks could ever come that close to massaging your soul.

    • Exactly! Thanks Tom. My reply to Mr. P would be: i feel truly sorry for his heart, but i’m not sure it is able to be located.

      • The point I am trying to get across to you artistic poets is that not everybody is like you. I sense a certain hostility here towards Thermodynamics, this is short-sighted too. Thermodynamics and photography are not something that limit one’s perception of the universe.

        I certainly don’t mind if Caitlin wants to devote half her time to poetry, my objection is to being told that this the only thing worth doing because everything else is boring.

        Can I interest anyone in my gallery of photographs taken on my tropical rainforested block near Mission Beach, Australia ? https://palloy.earth/rainforest/gallery

        Don’t feel sorry for me, or my heart, or my soul, whatever that is. I am as human as you are

        • Thank goodness for that Palloy – we were all going to chip in to kidnap you and drop your sorry ass off in somewhere that’s less of a cultural desert than Queensland, ha!! I’m now officially happy for you and to celebrate, I’m going to ask Mr. Amazon to wing me over a book on thermo-thingy-wotsits. Sleep tight!

        • Palloy. Thanks for the reply. First, please show line and verse where Caitlin stated nothing is worth doing but poetry (or anything else of an artistic bent) and thus boring. Also, know that i am not anti-science, anti-thermodynamics, quantum mechanics, etc. i’ve read and absorbed much of the literature and have been fascinated by it for decades. It even touches my heart and soul, even did (sic) Einstein’s and Heisenberg’s, and others. Does it yours?

          • “It even touches my heart and soul, even did (sic) Einstein’s and Heisenberg’s, and others. Does it yours?”

            Very interesting that you can make declarative statements as to what “touched the hearts and souls” of Einstein and Heisenberg. Wherever did you come by such knowledge?

            And what if physics is merely the means by which Palloy understands the working of corporeal existence, and not something that has anything to do with his/her “heart” or “soul”? Do you attribute that to some deficiency? If not, then why ask the question?

            How very literalistic of you to demand “line and verse” to validate what was clearly Palloy’s rhetorical statement about how this piece is making a value judgement about certain forms of expression, and by extension, a judgement about people, like artists, as somehow superior to people like — and I quote — “boring, artless, academic types.”

            Your condescension only serves to prove Palloy’s point.

          • I can perceive a certain kind of beauty in Mathematics and Thermodynamics, elegance would be a better word for it. It can be seen in equations. I know from experience that very few people can see it, because they are so keen to tell me that they never grasped maths in school and have forgotten everything they learned and seem proud of that.

            Quantum Mechanics, like poetry, cannot be translated into prose, but that doesn’t stop people doing it anyway, and coming up with ludicrous theories such as “it’s all in the vibrations” as if that were some Great Revelation, supported by Einstein.

            As for line and verse, I started my first post with “Don’t be like those boring, artlss academic types who think their rightness compensates for the fact that they’re unreadable.” (many people can read and understand things you find unreadable)

            “people don’t listen to charts and statistics, they respond to emotion and to memes” (many people can ‘read’ charts and statistics, although most cannot).

            The point behind all of this is that to overturn their narrative, the Great Revelation has to be able to be expressed in ALL ways, including charts, statistics, prose and (I suppose) poetry and art. Don’t count on me for any help with the latter.

      • Palloy – Hostility towards Thermodynamics? Thermodynamics is just a micro pixel of the big picture. There is no hostility at all as it is like Biodynamics and all other names science has come up with just a natural “flowing” mechanism. The big picture is much more blissful then concentrating on a very tiny section in the gears of the universe and one does not even need physical eyes to “see this picture”.

        • > “just a micro pixel of the big picture. ”
          A perfect example of passive-aggressive hostility towards something you clearly don’t understand.

  • Thank you Caitlin. “Against the ruin of the World there is only one defense: the creative act.”– Kenneth Rexroth
    “Without passion, what’s the fucking point?!” (the opera/one day a movie: ‘Sphere–The Most Passionate Love Triangle Never Imagined’) “Surround yourself with beauty; the other option sucks.” Robert Schick, rogue composer

  • “It is every activist’s duty to be loud, shiny, and interesting.” Sounds like Jimmy Dore. Like Caitlin, Jimmy speaks his truth with passion and is funny and entertaining at the same time. These two people are NEVER boring!

  • I must be one of those “boring, artless academic types who think their rightness compensates for the fact that they’re unreadable.” I have never seen a painting that is as good as a decent photograph. I have never read a poem and got anything out of it.

    My “rightness” is based on mathematics and the Laws of Thermodynamics, which are never broken anywhere in the Universe. While your wishy-washy poetic rightness is framed by your emotional state and your time, and so wouldn’t apply to hardly anyone else.

    When told demonstrators were marching on the Australian Parliament, Prime Minister Paul Keating asked, “Are they singing “We shall overcome’ or throwing bricks?”. On being assured they were singing, he said “Oh, that’s alright then.” That should tell you how you overturn the narrative.

    PLEASE remove the Google-owned recaptcha system, which is preventing me (and others) from posting.

    • You’re far to self assured of your tightness to realize when you’re wrong. Not seeing a painting as more than a representational image is on you for not looking deeper and not seeing how social dynamics are shaped by the narratives in our media (which includes film/music/art) shows a lack of understanding about how social dynamics are formed. Either that or you’re smarter than the MIC’s marketing teams who spend millions on movies, commercials, journalism, and sporting events to create a narrative that shines a positive light on them.

      • I can be assured of my “tightness” as long as I stick to facts that are correct. Most people don’t like to be shown up to be wrong, so they go along with the group, and prefer to stick to discussion of things where everyone is allowed to have their own opinion, like who is the best football team, what the weather will do tomorrow, etc.

        The MIC’s marketing teams produce movies, commercials and journalism that are targeted at 15-year olds, because sadly that is the average intelligence of the general audience. Adults have no difficulty in seeing through their narrative.

        Only 6 reCAPTCHAs this time!

    • “I have never seen a painting that is as good as a decent photograph. I have never read a poem and got anything out of it.”
      Reading the wrong poems and always looking at art that repels the viewer Palloy?
      Once I denied God’s existence and now I am glad that one can change his mind. Where does your expertise and all encompassing knowledge of the universe come from while lingering on a spinning, dying mud ball so encapsulated from everything else but itself?
      Poems and paintings can capture energies far beyond the artists mind and talent and will always be alive and present while the Laws of Thermodynamics will be a short-lived construct of the human educated mind imprisoned in its flesh and physical form.

  • Love this! I’m an artist myself so a bit biased but agree that it’s essential even if one isn’t an artist.

    When I was young I was taught in a drawing class to no draw what I think I see (chair, face, flower) but to draw what is there (light, shadow, color, form). This early teaching opened my mind up to the understanding that preconceived ideas are not the reality. That it’s essential to look for the truth beyond what my mind thinks it already knows.

    Much like your writing is often about looking beyond the public consensus, beyond the headlines, and searching for the truth hidden in that messaging, creating art is about seeing the world as it is, not as we think it to be.

    Of course, not all artists do this. Many (most) have agendas and instead of art make propaganda. I’m a way it is since we are presenting our observations in the way we want others to understand it. But, to do that effectively we as artists must open ourselves up to the truth. What we do with that is on us.

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