In Stalin’s Russia, making the wrong sort of art could literally get you killed. Unless your art conformed to the central committee’s view of what was deemed appropriate, you could find yourself being denounced by all your former friends and wind up eating gruel in a Siberian Gulag before you could say Constructivism.
To some minds, the world is only perfect when it’s a command and control world, so long as it’s they who command and you who they control. Their idea of perfection is a world in which they have everything locked down and under surveillance, with everybody conforming to their diktats. The problem is, these people generally lack the imagination to envisage what their Utopian society should even look like, let alone enforce it.
The result of such madness is dead art. People who make art under such a regime make very safe art; homogeneous and anonymous. It takes no risks. It says nothing. Every character in every portrait has the tell-tale unrealistic smile plastered on their faces like some kind of macabre, rictus, death mask. Art ossifies.
And what is the result? The only art that is remembered from the Soviet period is art that rebelled and pushed against the boundaries. We know more about the Gulag artists than we do about the legion of conformists. Vaclav Havel is the only Soviet era playwright anybody has heard about.
My wife showed me this article yesterday: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/3938591.stm
It demonstrates how evolution works. Evolution is subtle. Sheep had figured out that they could reach the tasty food by rolling across the cattle grids on their back. Some relative genius of a sheep had figured it out in a moment of inspiration. As a result, his progeny will prosper and multiply on the tasty food he can now reach.
I take this as a metaphor for the human spirit. Those with a mind to may try to control, dictate, oppress and regiment everybody else. They may try to instil such fear into us by their propensity for disproportionate violence, that we cowardly conform.
But artists have a responsibility. Artists have a role to play in representing the triumph of the human spirit. Art is about nothing unless it is about the subtle and insistent strength of the human spirit and the evolution of ideas.
Life finds a way.