History as a Genre of Art was a short piece I submitted following a commission from Heritage Corner in Leeds, funded by The Geraldine Connor Foundation in September 2020.
The arts are not an important tool for unpacking history. Rather, history is an important tool for expressing art. Art is more than history, the arts are concerned with expressing the future and the present moment as well as the past. History is only concerned with the future as an indirect representation of the past.
Many historians may see their subject as an exact science; yet they are only telling stories and creative responses of that which happened. Even interpretative academics who say there are multiple interpretations of history are telling a clever story about stories. Ultimately, history is a genre of art.
The relationship between art and history is misunderstood, which in turn has the potential to drive humanity to fear and create violence. When we talk about “fear of the other” we are talking about peoples’ fear based on the narratives they have of each other. Narratives are inherently created by a storyteller and are therefore artistic. A future peace will challenge us to see the true nature of history.
The future demands that we recognise our mistakes and choose to do better. It demands we give people their humanity back. Humanity, coming from the etymological roots of Humando means to bury. The past is buried, it is laying below sunlight, it is this buried past which we must give back to the people it belongs to, to be engaged in that process of giving-back is an essential part of being an artist.