The political function of art is a perennial question in the field of aesthetics. In classical Athens, Plato argued that art as a form of imitation was limited in its ability to communicate knowledge about political life. In contrast, Aristotle saw this mimetic gap as a space for imagining new political realities.
In our digital times, for better or worse, life is increasingly experienced as a simulation — on screen, out there, out of reach. Since the border between life and imitation is increasingly blurred, social media messages gain as much purchase on the body politic today as political speeches of the past. A single image, a 10-second video, or a one-line tweet can both unify and polarize audiences in an instant.
What then, is the role of the work of art in the age of simulation?