As darkness is to light, so are our solitary screens to cultural capital.

Illustration by LeAnne Chan

In the aftermath of November, blame and criticism arose against social media as an echo chamber of producing false certainty and national cohesive opinion. Gramsci, an Italian Marxist theorist who believed that states utilize cultural institutions to gain and remain in power, would be surprised at this ironic political outcome.  Many of our cultural institutions that rely upon social media platforms ultimately lead to their own loss of voice in our young country’s capitalist society. An unusual thought that has now become more popularly accepted shows social media conveyed as an oppressive power functioning as a divisive force,  containing free thought and communication to isolate us from each other. The results of the 2016 election and the humongous outpour of shock from confident liberal recently converted Hillary-ites is a demonstrative example of the oppressive weight that is the exchange of likes and shares between like-minded internet friends.

However, the departure from Gramsci’s main theory on culture and power does not mean that we should negate completely the validity and truth in his stream of thought. The normative culture of art appreciation being reserved to the bourgeois-class intellectual and exclusoratoriness from working-class intellectuals is apparent in people’s’ likes, follows, and shares on Instagram. You’ll likely see your friend Naomi’s handle naokando liking art from “insta-famous” accounts such as plslala and htmlflowers and simultaneously posting signs Naomi meticulously created together with their friends from the Oakland Women’s March. Independent artists that advertise their work on social media teeter along the line that divides class and modern intellectualism, catering to a specific niche audience that assisted to the echo chamber of denial in the fall.

Art is political, art is mobile. A picture says so much more than a thousand words in its ability to enact beliefs and actions in its viewers. Gramsci’s concept of hegemony, how ideas and thoughts can lock a society, is reflected within the artistic community in how often locked within its own liberal views, feeding into its elitism and ultimately making its own goals and political virtues withered attempts. Social media now functions as an oppressive medium in containing thought rather than spreading it. According to Gramsci, we must function within our own domination to rise up from oppression. Examples of political lobbying, social activist groups bringing lawsuits to the supreme court are common forms of criticizing and fighting against an oppressive system. I believe social media, specifically art, can also function in this medium to break the walls of these echo chambers and return us to the conception of a “world wide web.” The art we share and create on social media has the opportunity to reconnect those webs, eliminate the divide between the bourgeoisie and working classes appreciation of art. Our political art can be so much more than political art, but the new cultural hegemony that lifts our weary eyes from our screens and feel the empathy that we desperately need.

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