While politicians making injudicious statements are about as surprising as the sun rising in the east, the recent proclamation that political elements can render an artwork artless still manages to astonish; it is so patently absurd that refuting it would be like writing about the sun setting in the west.
Politics without resemblance, relevance and meaning to life isn't politics. Art without resemblance, relevance and meaning to life isn't art.
The foolish assertion betrays its author's depth of ignorance. Art is art, whether it touches on politics or not. Art is political, because it possesses social dimensions - expressions of life, reflections of a culture at a given time. But while art doesn't have to be about politics, the political can absolutely become art.
After all, politics is the art of articulation, persuasion and influence. A politician must be able to speak to and connect with the people - not unlike the way art is required to speak to and elicit people's emotions. Politics requires the careful crafting of messages, to instil public confidence, create public resonance and rally public support.
And as Max Weber asserts, politics is also the art of compromise. It is one that requires clarity of purpose, and the ability to pursue aims while working to balance insistence and sacrifice. Achieving the possible requires the ability to see things from others' perspective, recognising the limits of one's own realities. So it takes humility, too - to know that one is perhaps not the best judge of things. (In this case, art.)
Politics also calls for a mastery of the art of leadership, which requires the craft of decision-making and the gift of insight and foresight. It takes guts, brains and dexterity to not be doctrinaire, but to be pragmatic; to understand the law of necessity; to grasp the import of opportunities. To exercise power, one must be agile and flexible. It requires the "high art" of conciliation: the ability to rise above conflicts so as to put things into action.
The irony in the misinformed view that art and politics don't mix is that, in Hong Kong, "art" in politics is indeed sadly wanting.
Political impasse isn't a recent phenomenon here, and filibusters are only part of the problem. Politicians from across the political divide, the ideologues from all sides, are equally to blame. Like the misguided attempt to define "art", many have allowed their definitions of "patriots" or "pan-democrats" to get in the way of political progress. This city's politicians restrict others and themselves by relying on caricatures from the past. Thus, they tie themselves in knots, fixating on battles long past and obsessing over the sensibilities and sensitivities of now-irrelevant politics.
It is time to resurrect what the president of the Legislative Council once called for: "political reconciliation". There lie the first steps of political progress, and it will require that more than one politician in this city recognise the necessity of this "art" in our politics.
Instead of taking the politics out of art, how about putting the art back into our politics?
Alice Wu is a political consultant and a former associate director of the Asia Pacific Media Network at UCLA