There’s nothing more boring than hours spent regarding our own reflections in the mirror. After all, who really wants to be confronted exclusively with their own, already-so-familiar selves? For that matter, who wants to be confronted exclusively with thoughts and positions similar to one’s own? To hear the eternally same views on the state of the world? Hardly anybody, one would think. But unfortunately, this is true of more and more people. Narcissism is omnipresent—exemplified by political actors who are getting more and more unrestrainedly lost in navel-gazing while denigrating anyone who dares to oppose or compete with them on substance. As if a differing opinion were a declaration of war. And social media, once praised as a window on the lives of others out there in the world, as fulfilling the participatory hopes of those who’d otherwise go unheard, is not helping: it’s instead creating an atmosphere that’s exclusionary, limiting, and—for many people—even scary. Stewing in one’s own juice has become the new normal. And everything that distracts from one’s fondly familiar, ever-same background noise, everything that sounds different or inaccessible, that doesn’t immediately ingratiate itself but instead demands openness, patience, and the ability to listen, is viewed sceptically, pushed away, rejected. Curiosity about others—that fundamental prerequisite for engaging with each other despite all differences, in order to perhaps even achieve mutual understanding at some point—would seem to have vanished. It’s thus perhaps more true than ever that art has a responsibility to broaden perspectives, to train its gaze on those to whom nobody else pays attention, to portray human beings in their many voices and diversity, and to be accessible to all people … be it thanks to cheap admission tickets for concerts, an “arts pass” for everyone, or books distributed free of charge in schools. For art is a universal language that can bring people together across continents and national borders—providing a glimmer of hope even as the gloom of nationalism darkens the horizon.
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