Gedeelde grond (‘Shared ground’) 9: listen to a new episode with Sandra Sara Raes Oklobdzija

Gedeelde grond (‘Shared ground’) is a series of conversations with arts professionals from Flanders. What do they dream about? What do they worry about? In this new episode multidisciplinary artist, philosopher, teacher, educator, actress and director Sandra Sara Raes Oklobdzija talks about the relationship between artistic work and political engagement, and her hopes for the future.

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Is there a relationship between artistic work and engagement? Is art always the result of an engaged view of what is happening in the world? Or can art just be art, and stand on its own? 

For Sandra Sara, artistic work naturally starts from a committed point of view. While she admits that art can just be art, free of politics, every work of art does carry political potential: it can always be used politically. If not by the creator, then by critics, the public or anyone else. To her, it actually seems like an opportunity to act on that.

 From Sandra Sara’s perspective, ignoring the political potential of an artwork is quite a privilege. She would not be able to engage in activism if she were not an artist. Or activism in itself would not be an answer to all her needs as a human being.

While the arts field is in part a supportive sector for politically engaged work, she struggles with the little impact that comes from it. She therefore questions how conservative we are as a field: to what extent, and in what areas? Are there key positions that stick to the status quo? Can the need for change from the margins still move to the centre of our field of work? How do we provide support for that change? How can we work more inclusively?

Looking to the future, she especially fears the silence in a field with so many voices. On the one hand, she sees this figuratively, like the lack of self-reflection. On the other hand, the literal silence about what is going on in the world frightens her. Context here, on March 1st 2024 – the day this conversation was recorded – dozens of people lining up for food distribution were shot in Gaza. For Sandra Sara, it is frightening how we as a sector look at this, and insufficiently use the tools we have in our hands. The sector can (mean) more, thus she keeps expecting it. 

Her dream for the future is to actually do something, and to keep believing that change is possible. And just like that, she concludes the conversation with a resolute answer to the question “can we separate art and politics”: “for me, that is impossible”.

Download the full transcription here (in Dutch)