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The Protest Survey: Xiu Xiu’s Jamie Stewart

On Obama's First Term, Occupy, and Art vs. Politics

Nov 05, 2012 Xiu Xiu
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In conjunction with our Protest Issue we asked several artists the same set of politically-themed questions. Jamie Stewart of Xiu Xiu provided these answers. The band released their latest album, their eighth, Always, earlier this year via Polyvinyl.

What, in your opinion, is the most pressing worldwide political or social issue?

Climate change. It is essentially a nonissue, which considering that we have been warned for the past 10 years that we are on the brink of human extinction possibly within our lifetimes, it is astonishing that our response has been the Toyota Prius and little else. I suppose it is very human to be so overwhelmed by our having destroyed ourselves that we just don’t know what else to do but bury our heads in the sand. But, for the love of God, please do not impose Armageddon on your children by just fucking not having any.

What are your thoughts on the Occupy movement? It’s been almost a year since it started, has it accomplished anything yet?

It did bring into the national conversation ideas of class and extremes of privilege. Romney as an out-of-touch oligarch was clarified by this effort. The Republican party as the party of insane greed and inane self-obsession was clarified. Perhaps this being so close to the fore now will be what tips the election.

What are your thoughts on how the U.S. presidential election is shaping up so far?


Are you satisfied or disappointed by President Obama’s first term in office thus far?

I feel mixed, as I assume most people do. As attractive as he is as a celebrity, he’s just another politician. I appreciate that he brought queer rights to a centerpiece of the Democrat’s platform, I appreciate that he has yet to bomb Iran, I appreciate that he prevented the world from falling into economic collapse at great risk to his own political capital, and I appreciate that he prevented oil drilling in protected land in Alaska. I do not appreciate that we are still at war, that he backpedaled on Guantanamo, I do not appreciate that he has done almost nothing to further the cause of environmentalism, I do not appreciate that he has done nothing to increase gun control.

Do you think the United States has changed at all since Obama’s election? If so, how?

Well the Right has become more fanatical and vitriolic and generally people seem more afraid and disappointed. It does seem like a low point in the history of the US of A.

Does openly supporting a political candidate (i.e., Obama) represent a tacit endorsement of all of that politician’s positions (drone strikes, indefinite detention of terror suspects, etc.)?

Of course it does but what the fuck else are you going to do, support the fascist? In a choice between AIDS and the clap, you chose the clap, but wouldn’t it be nice to be able to choose between a bowl of ice cream and AIDS instead? If you vote for Obama you are voting for drone strikes, but if you vote for Romney you are voting for war with Iran. You can’t ever get what you want, vote or don’t but do not delude yourself that somehow the Democrats are the good guys, they are just the less diabolical guys.

Do artists have a responsibility to use their work or public platform to positively influence voters and push for change?

I do not think that politics and art are inherently complementary but that said art can be used together to try and raise some small awareness in the world about how to create positive change. Politics will exploit art and turn into something disposable for the sake of eventually using it to pacify and buy off the lobbyists that politicians sell their souls to in order to be powerful and have people love them. It cannot exist in and of itself as a force of good. That is not what it is. But art can exist as something that is good. Art can make you think that you want to work to end human trafficking, it can make you aware of queer rights and change your behavior, it can make you want to become a vegan and therefore stop destroying the Earth with your fuckin’ meat lust. These are all politically selfless acts from the position of a person involved in art.


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