by Miriam La Rosa 

What about social responsibility?
Miriam La Rosa: The term ‘freedom’ carries an ambivalent connotation. On one hand, its meaning refers to concepts such as liberty, independence and rights, almost automatically suggesting connections with the notions of freedom of expression and speech, i.e. with the political sphere. On the other hand though, the term nowadays suffers – if I am allowed to use this expression – from a sort of abuse of its function and role. Think of, for instance, the fetishisation of free speech; our society has developed the tendency of making a fetish out of freedom. I remember that in a previous conversation we had, you told me that “freedom (and freedom of expression) has become equated with freedom to express yourself, which in turn manifests as freedom to say what you like, do what you like, wear what you like, date/marry who you like, buy what you want etc.”. In other words, with the risk of a lack or even a denial of social responsibility. How does this discourse manifest in the installation you are currently building in the Window Space? 

Charlotte Warne Thomas: This is a very good point and yes, something we already discussed. I think that often there is a misinterpretation of what genuine freedom is. The commonly held idea of freedom as that of dyeing your hair, dating who you want and being who you are, do what you want to do – even to be an artist; ‘I want to be free’ etc., that has become a sort of substitute, “standing in” for genuine freedom. Genuine freedom is not about that. If you go and talk to someone in Cuba or Eritrea, and talk to them about freedom, they would have a completely different opinion. Then, if you go and talk to a teenager around the corner here, they might say: ‘Yeah, I hate the way everyone says you can’t do this, you can’t do that’. What they mean is social pressure; they are not talking about freedom. They have no idea about real freedom, compared to somebody in Eritrea, for instance. On the other hand, this appearance of freedom, which has become completely co-opted by the market – so we are sold the idea of freedom through, for instance, hippie clothes – does not even have to be what looks alternative, although it could be. So for example somebody that is really aware of these things tends to have a particular look, because they are buying to an idea of freedom that has been corporatised. And here I do not think it is just Western; it is capitalised, commoditised, and you will find it everywhere and it is the same in Russia – and there they do not have real freedom. If someone wants to be gay, they are actually risking their life, if someone wants to be protesting against Putin, they are probably going to get shot or murdered. Of course, linked to that there is the idea that with freedom comes responsibility, you know the freedom to vote, for example, it means that you should vote. There was this article that I found the occasion of a show at Raven Row a few years ago. One of the exhibits was a piece of work by a duo called Learning Site; the text by Jaime Stapleton that accompanied the sculpture has what I think is a really great explanation of the way the 1960’s freedoms were a genuine attempt by the counter culture to change the status quo. You know, when my parents grew up it was really socially unacceptable to have multiple sexual partners, or women having a child outside of marriage. There has been a huge change in culture and society in that way, which is really good, but also those genuine movements of deeply rooted political consciousness have been totally co-opted by the market and this article [by Stapleton] really underlined this for me. How does this discourse manifest in my installation? I don’t really know. Probably it is quite likely that this piece of work won’t address these concerns specifically, but what I think, in a more general sense, is that this idea of what looks like freedom is really important for art. A lot of people believe that art and artists think that freedom is just liberty to express yourself. It is not.

FREEDOM > Miriam La Rosa > 26.04.2015