In today’s Scotland on Sunday, Kirsty Gunn offers a dire Jeremiad on supposed political influence in the arts. If this tedious, whiny, paranoid diatribe is an example of her work then I shall make a point of avoiding her writings in future. I was left wondering what bureaucrat had directed her to write this piece.
What I see here is a self-obsessed, self-righteous rant reminiscent of a genre that was common during the first referendum campaign as various self-appointed arbiters of ‘proper’ debate pontificated on how we were all talking about the wrong things to the wrong people at the wrong time and in the wrong way.
The kind of absolute artistic freedom Ms Gunn craves does not exist in real life. And it is as well that it doesn’t. For it is constraints that drive creativity. In a very real sense, art is defined by the diverse pressures which contrive to limit expression. Art is what reacts against those constraints. Art is what seeks to push back those limits.
Kirsty Gunn offers no evidence whatever of any exceptional political pressure on writers. Other writers state that they find none of the bureaucratic direction that Ms Gunn implies is ubiquitous and overt. Perhaps it’s just that those other writers cope better with what they regard as nothing more than the commonplace hurdles and impediments that come with the role.
Perhaps they are not disappointed or offended because they don’t expect unconditional support from anybody. Least of all government agencies accountable to watchdogs acting on behalf of taxpayers.
Or maybe they are just more relaxed because they are not beset by the British media’s hysterical caricature of recent SNP administrations.