Can art be divorced from the politics that supported it?

This is an interesting article to spark debate (when you skip past the bit about Berlusconi though he does spark all manner of debates all on his own).

Can you divorce politics from art? If the art was produced during a political regime now deemed to be unpalatable (and supported or was supported by that regime), or had been adopted by now despised poilitical leaders, should we ignore its context ?

Futurism was one art movement in Italy that on paper could not be separated from the political foray as the group's leading exponent, Marinetti, helped Mussolini found the Fascist movement in 1919. Marinetti broke away from Mussolini in 1920, but still supported the regime after the 1922 March on Rome, claiming that Fascism had at least fulfilled Futurism's minimum programme of demands. In 1929 Marinetti became secretary of the Fascist Writers' Union. Loyal to Mussolini until the end, Marinetti died in 1944, and with his death Futurism finally came to an end.

As I mentioned in my blog article on Futurism and Florence, Futurism was a precursor to Fascism in Italy and fought against the vanguard: 

Established in Italy at the turn of the twentieth century, Futurism was a contrast to the Romanticism that had gone before. The Futurists emphasized and glorified contemporary concepts of the future – speed, technology and industrialisation. They embraced the modern world. F.T. Marinetti published his Manifesto of Futurism in 1909, first in an article in the Italian ‘La Gazetta dell’Emilia’ before it was taken up by the French paper ‘Le Figaro.’ Marinetti wanted no part of the old world and tradition,
“Let’s break out of the horrible shell of wisdom and throw ourselves like pride-ripened fruit into the wide, contorted mouth of the wind! Let’s give ourselves utterly to the Unknown, not in desperation but only to replenish the deep wells of the Absurd!”
There was no artistic programme in the manifesto, just a battle cry against the vanguard, a threat to remove Italy “from its smelly gangrene of professors, archaeologists, tour-guides and antiquarians. […]We mean to free her from the countless museums that cover her like so many graveyards.”
 But would looking at artwork without knowing the history or any manifestos that may be behind it affect the message that the artist(s) was trying to put across? Yes and no. There is the intertextuality of life; the art was not created in a vacuum and nor did the artist not have a concept of what they were creating, so to ignore that would be to only see half of the picture. Or would it? By admiring a piece of art purely for the forms on the canvas, created in marble, or whatever, the viewer can still appreciate the technique and quality of the finished article. If you applied Roland Barthes' theory on writing as espoused in his paper "Death of the Author" to art then it would be the viewer that creates the proper interpretation; by assigning a single interpretation on a work (one taking into account the creator's social and historical background) you are imposing a limitation to the work's 'text'.

The question remains: can art be divorced entirely from its context?


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