I got really tempted to trigger this particular topic when I read this question. I can say it is more out of curiosity to know your point of views that I'm writing this post; it is, at least apparently, not a concern or related to any of my art works. So, excuse me for not adding a visual.
I've always felt a deep urge to question artists the same thing, specially those who work with topics dealing with changing something in the society, or highlighting an issue, it can be cultural or political. And when I read this question I thought this is the right time to explore it, not necessarily debate it from a one-sided point of view, but from a bird's eye view.
Can visual art really bring substantial change around us? Does it even reach where it should and talk to the people concerned? There are multiple conflicting views inside me which pull me from one side of the coin to another, or one can call it a rhizomatous sphere of various view points, but they never resolve my dilemma regarding committed art. When I visit white cube galleries and see artworks on some sensitive topic like Kashmir conflict, global warming, farmer suicide etc. I really get surprised and a person inside me says what and where is this going? Do the people who are seeing this show even bothered about these things once they step out of the gallery space? Is the artist really so deeply affected, and if so then what was s/he thinking of achieving by showing it at such a constricted space visited mainly by people with a taste in visual art? Sometimes I feel like I'm seeing a visual translation of a research paper where the concept note demands more engagement and brain picking than the actual artwork. I know I'm generalising such a vast topic and the artists dealing with it, but to question something one has to address it keeping it under a single umbrella which may have holes, but it makes it easier to then narrow down to the main problem. And hence I want to ask myself as well as you what is the true scope and outreach of committed art?
Of course now artists have moved out of galleries and are doing community projects, which I still find more relevant in terms of reaching and benefitting the people concerned. But then I ask myself 'really?' when I see these short-term project based works where the artist is treating a targeted community as a patient and behaving as a self-proclaimed saviour. There is an element of hierarchy, voyeurism and a violence done by capturing their real life problems within an individualistic artist project. Then another question arises, can the artist do the same thing if s/he is asked to do it anonymously and selflessly? It becomes a question dealing with basic human psychology of gaining credit and appreciation. I also sometimes feel insecure and demotivated when a fellow artist uses politics as a formula and a device to cash and fit in the art scenario, since, at least in India, it is quite in trends with the galleries and reputed art organisations to promote socially and politically conscious art.
I don't know where I'm getting at with this, but its just coming out in a flow and I hand over the steering to you guys to please take it from here and quench my inquisitiveness. Would love to hear your views, specially artists coming from different countries. It would be interesting to know how different forms of political art is received at your place, and has visual art brought any real change in the way society and the governments function? This is a very personal view I'm sharing and I can be completely wrong from your view point, because as I said, I'm pulled to opposite sides and right now in a confused state when it comes to this sphere of art making. But at the same time I respect and encourage criticism from your end.
(Btw you can see few of my older works here to get a clear picture about which trajectory of art practice I am coming from: http://cargocollective.com/sonam)