In ‘Why Art Follows Politics’, published in The Daily Worker in 1936,
Virginia Woolf remarked on a change in the conditions for creativity in
the late 1930s. She wrote that the artist’s studio was now ‘far from
being a cloistered spot where he can contemplate his model or his
apple in peace’, for it was ‘besieged by voices, all disturbing, some for
one reason, some for another.’ She characterised the developing political
crisis in terms of auditory disturbance or interruption, including
the noises of radio news; the voices of dictators addressing the public
by megaphone in the streets, and public opinion, which, Woolf wrote,
called for artists to prove their social and political usefulness. In
extreme political systems, artists were forced to compromise and use
their work for political purposes – to ‘celebrate fascism; celebrate
communism’ – in order to be allowed to practise at all.
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