If politicians were more like artists…

Fernand Léger, "Composition aux trois figures", 1932 © Adagp, Paris ©  C. Bahier/P. Migeat - Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI/Dist. RMN-GP

Fernand Léger, "Composition aux trois figures", 1932 © Adagp, Paris © C. Bahier/P. Migeat - Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI/Dist. RMN-GP

Walking through the Pompidou Centre in Paris recently, surrounded by the abundance of creativity that defines artistic expression, deploying all sorts of techniques and materials, a thought struck me: the immediacy of the relationship between the artist and the public. 

When they create, artists draw on real situations from the past, present and future. Their creative message is expressed to the world, and there is immediacy in the response they receive, whether from the public or from critics, whether to be praised, criticised or – worse – ignored. Artists focus on what matters to them. They create to communicate. And they confront failure by trying again and again, until they are heard.

Consider, too, the immediacy between the public and creative directors in the fashion industry. The latter put their resonance to the test each time a collection is launched, four times a year. Each collection is a proposition, and if the taste of the audience deems it authentic, it will sell. Otherwise it will fail.

Politicians, on the other hand, get a true sense of their relevance only once every four or five years, when an election takes place. In the interim, their authenticity and their immediacy in terms of real-life, real-time situations remain hidden behind layers of bureaucrats, advisers, pollsters, donors and special-interest groups.

The gap between politicians and the people will be bridged only if the leader is open and transparent, if there is sense and sensibility in his or her engagement with the citizenry.

We need more political discourse with old-fashioned grassroots engagement, exchanges of views on policy initiatives and ideas shared in rural and urban centres, in town hall meetings. 

We, the citizens, need more not less authentic, real exchanges between leaders and the public – with progress as the shared goal between politicians and the people.

Good politics is possible.