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When the world is burning, is art a waste of time? | R. Alan Brooks

Visit to get our entire library of TED Talks, transcripts, translations, personalized talk recommendations and more. Is art worth it? “Hell yeah,” says graphic novelist R. Alan Brooks — art has the power to scare dictators, inspire multitudes and change hearts and minds across the world. Reflecting on his journey to become an artist at…

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Visit to get our entire library of TED Talks, transcripts, translations, personalized talk recommendations and more.

Is art worth it? “Hell yeah,” says graphic novelist R. Alan Brooks — art has the power to scare dictators, inspire multitudes and change hearts and minds across the world. Reflecting on his journey to become an artist at a time when the world felt like it was burning, Brooks shares how creating something from a place of sincerity and passion can positively impact people in ways you may never know.

The TED Talks channel features the best talks and performances from the TED Conference, where the world’s leading thinkers and doers give the talk of their lives in 18 minutes (or less). Look for talks on Technology, Entertainment and Design — plus science, business, global issues, the arts and more. You’re welcome to link to or embed these videos, forward them to others and share these ideas with people you know.

TED’s videos may be used for non-commercial purposes under a Creative Commons License, Attribution–Non Commercial–No Derivatives (or the CC BY – NC – ND 4.0 International) and in accordance with our TED Talks Usage Policy (). For more information on using TED for commercial purposes (e.g. employee learning, in a film or online course), please submit a Media Request at

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68 Comments

68 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Prince Kashyap

    February 18, 2021 at 7:09 pm

    He inspires me.

  2. Avatar

    anepileptic epileptic

    February 18, 2021 at 7:11 pm

    Yes. So is TED.

  3. Avatar

    anepileptic epileptic

    February 18, 2021 at 7:12 pm

    Go figure that those who were oppressed so fiercely are those that are also the worse speakers in any square or arena.

  4. Avatar

    Girish Gowda

    February 18, 2021 at 7:14 pm

    Boredom and inability to inhibit some degree of otherness is more fatal and inhuman than any pandemic. We need art to tell that our longings are universal. We need art to make us realise and bring a little light into our little lives however deceptively hopeless, dark and brief.

  5. Avatar

    Free Radicals

    February 18, 2021 at 7:17 pm

    Really needed this. Thank you.

  6. Avatar

    Sannidor

    February 18, 2021 at 7:19 pm

    Woke nonsense. Racism is an abstract construct, in-group preference is not a bad thing – just judge people by their actions and you’ll be fine.

    • Avatar

      clearmenser

      February 18, 2021 at 7:45 pm

      thank you

    • Avatar

      credenza1

      February 18, 2021 at 9:38 pm

      Propaganda is not art. What passes as art these days is progressive propaganda, completely safe, uncontroversial and free from honest criticism because of its political stance. It is anti-art, and spiritually crippling to the maker and the consumer.

  7. Avatar

    Vũ Mạnh Tùng

    February 18, 2021 at 7:25 pm

    The world is not burning, it’s revealing the human nature. And that, my friends, is the true form of art.

  8. Avatar

    Stanley Tipsword

    February 18, 2021 at 7:47 pm

    Small things make a big difference sometimes. Like a smile or a kind word.

  9. Avatar

    Eva

    February 18, 2021 at 7:48 pm

    Art!

  10. Avatar

    MVV33 3T1V

    February 18, 2021 at 7:53 pm

    Wow! You made me cry. It really touched my heart! I’m not black so I can’t say that I feel exactly the same way than you, but I feel those same feelings for other reasons; the guilt, the questions about if i’m being vain, the feeling of sillyness, of being immature or still a child for wanting to do something that light up my heart. I’ve been trying for years to settle in a normal job and I’ve always been super anxious and depressed and now Im realizing that it’s because im not made for that, im made to express myself, just like you, and it does matter as much … thats my way of changing the world, by being authentic. You encouraged me to never give up, thank you❤️

  11. Avatar

    noksan bimriri

    February 18, 2021 at 7:56 pm

    There is always a reason for something

  12. Avatar

    Know Art

    February 18, 2021 at 8:01 pm

    The best ‘purpose’ of art I’ve found yet is like drawing big arrows to problems that need fixing, but besides activist art (which gets boring quick imo) I haven’t found too much. Although I’m trying my best at adding education to art, but is that part of art? Who knows…

    • Avatar

      credenza1

      February 18, 2021 at 9:32 pm

      What you are referring to is propaganda, not art. Nobody needs to be lectured about social issues. We get that 24/7 from every other source. Art is about revealing what is beautiful and true.

  13. Avatar

    Megumi Hayashida

    February 18, 2021 at 8:33 pm

    During this pandemic we turned to music, movies, books, videogames, MEMES..ect. Some of us even (re)discovered their artistic potential. Art teaches us, it maintains our sanity. Art saves us in a way.

  14. Avatar

    Biociety

    February 18, 2021 at 8:35 pm

    Art is so underrated, many people keep writing discouraged from art, including the talented one, because their parents want their kid have highest grade in school, which is also suppress their divergent thinking

  15. Avatar

    Wayne Moore

    February 18, 2021 at 8:41 pm

    Just from the title no if the world is burning art may be all that remains, a snapshot of existence.

    • Avatar

      credenza1

      February 18, 2021 at 9:30 pm

      Well Portland seems still to be burning. Perhaps the artists would be better employed in the fire service.

  16. Avatar

    Max S

    February 18, 2021 at 8:58 pm

    more reverse racism hate mongering. shame on you

  17. Avatar

    GuitarZombie

    February 18, 2021 at 9:10 pm

    No one is after you dude

  18. Avatar

    Abd All

    February 18, 2021 at 9:11 pm

    It is really a waste of time after listening to this

  19. Avatar

    BIDALING TV OFFICIAL

    February 18, 2021 at 9:11 pm

    Like 👍 baksa niaha gasujok

  20. Avatar

    M C

    February 18, 2021 at 9:13 pm

    We were designed to create…

  21. Avatar

    credenza1

    February 18, 2021 at 9:29 pm

    Art that seeks to push an ideological agenda is propaganda. It is by definition limited and biased. Art institutions which ban and cancel works which they deem politically unacceptable are propagandists. They are choosing to tell people what they may or may not see or contemplate. These activities are all anti-art. They have nothing to do with the unfettered range and expansion of human consciousness. Quite the opposite. The tendency of the current art world to behave as political activists is an artistic dead end which limits creativity, and especially so when grants and exhibitions are based on ideology rather than mastery of form.

  22. Avatar

    Rahul Kumar

    February 18, 2021 at 10:58 pm

    Without art life will be a machine

  23. Avatar

    iloveagdolls30

    February 18, 2021 at 11:07 pm

    Hi there

  24. Avatar

    immanuel godson

    February 19, 2021 at 12:32 am

    Im sick to my back teeth of seeing black people open their mouths and start harping on about ‘white people’…..when will they stop with the identity politics and just focus on business

  25. Avatar

    GloriaJWimberley_ GreenSwanica.PROetess

    February 19, 2021 at 12:39 am

    ✨Art is Life✨ Resonant and profound presentation that speaks truth to power📚🖋

  26. Avatar

    credenza1

    February 19, 2021 at 1:42 am

    Well, when Portland and Minneapolis and Seattle and Chicago are burning, perhaps its time to get rid of the Democrats who have let the cities run down through neglect.

  27. Avatar

    Nova G

    February 19, 2021 at 1:53 am

    The title of the video was more impressive

  28. Avatar

    Jack Hammer

    February 19, 2021 at 2:48 am

    Not at all, it’s when we need Art the most. The more immersive a experience the more profound the effect, that’s why I see music aa one big beautiful metaphysical-emotional release value for the individual, it’s like a more primal form of therapy.

  29. Avatar

    Nathania Felicio

    February 19, 2021 at 2:57 am

    Hey TED,
    Can you invite CIA / FBI and Psycholog to told everyone or at least your subscriber , How to being polite person?
    How to understand ethic of privacy?
    And how to stop judging young-adult just because you are older than them?
    Thankyou~

  30. Avatar

    Nathania

    February 19, 2021 at 2:57 am

    Hey TED,
    Can you invite CIA / FBI and Psycholog to told everyone or at least your subscriber , How to being polite person?
    How to understand ethic of privacy?
    And how to stop judging young-adult just because you are older than them?
    Thankyou~

  31. Avatar

    Jack Hammer

    February 19, 2021 at 2:59 am

    “Go make art and scare a dictator” Powerful stuff man. Love it!

  32. Avatar

    aji widhia

    February 19, 2021 at 5:59 am

    Last line: Go make art and scare the dictator

  33. Avatar

    Justin Hopkins

    February 19, 2021 at 7:50 am

    When the world is burning some of the greatest art is made.

  34. Avatar

    Анатолий Петров

    February 19, 2021 at 8:07 am

    Now when Stalin is long gone, Russian art is in a state of decline it’s never been in

  35. Avatar

    Echolas Gaming

    February 19, 2021 at 8:21 am

    Art is the great container of every single emotion of humanity when we witness the world’s burning.

    • Avatar

      Tina Tulips

      February 19, 2021 at 6:05 pm

      Love. So succinct. I hope it’s OK if I write this in my quote book.

    • Avatar

      Echolas Gaming

      February 20, 2021 at 5:19 am

      @Tina Tulips ok

  36. Avatar

    Bernardo Fitzpatrick

    February 19, 2021 at 9:24 am

    I love comic books and I love your amazing journey through art. Amazing talk and awesome man.

  37. Avatar

    Partial to Pleasure

    February 19, 2021 at 9:27 am

    Ever since this pandeimc & the quarantine periods have started, I’ve realized that the only thing I really care about, are news of scientific discoveries & developments; especially those that are about space travel & saving Earth. So, I think science comes 1st & art 2nd.

    • Avatar

      99Bitcoins 99Bitcoins

      February 21, 2021 at 9:30 am

      Write my professional broker

  38. Avatar

    David Green

    February 19, 2021 at 10:06 am

    with wokeness affecting/infecting all manor of artistic expression and culture , it is up to the fringe ” players ” to up their game , and show that independent thought is still alive and well , even if it means swimming against the tide

  39. Avatar

    Baby Fangs

    February 19, 2021 at 10:24 am

    It is 2:30am and I’m sitting at my desk really thinking about how the pandemic forced me to become a full time artist. I have been so afraid and this calmed so much fear. I needed to hear this.

  40. Avatar

    Suraj Gunwal

    February 19, 2021 at 11:10 am

    Ielts vale like karo

  41. Avatar

    Triek Ps4

    February 19, 2021 at 11:30 am

    Art is always a waste of time, same goes for fashion.

  42. Avatar

    James Scarr

    February 19, 2021 at 3:08 pm

    What an engaging speaker! Really enjoyed this talk!

  43. Avatar

    Ayaan Roy

    February 19, 2021 at 3:08 pm

    ARTS INSPIRED PERSON, PEOPLE’S INSPIRED BY THAT PERSON AND IT CHANGE INTO REVOLUTION……

  44. Avatar

    Wildflower

    February 19, 2021 at 3:25 pm

    No! In analogy to “If the world ends tomorrow, I plant today an appel tree

  45. Avatar

    Deep Ashtray

    February 19, 2021 at 4:11 pm

    Art opens up the dialogues we desperately need right now.

  46. Avatar

    Lisa Love Ministries

    February 19, 2021 at 6:52 pm

    Proverbs 8:17
    1 Corinthians 15👑

  47. Avatar

    Wenting L

    February 19, 2021 at 7:55 pm

    strong artist

  48. Avatar

    systemmik

    February 19, 2021 at 8:07 pm

    Constructivism gives you the answer

  49. Avatar

    Maria Selepak

    February 19, 2021 at 11:39 pm

    I was thinking about this a lot lately

  50. Avatar

    THINK BEFORE U ACT

    February 20, 2021 at 4:31 am

    No

  51. Avatar

    EveryhtingsVuthy

    February 20, 2021 at 12:25 pm

    Art is the things that people use to motivate themselves

  52. Avatar

    Terrence Wise

    February 20, 2021 at 9:23 pm

    Superb.

  53. Avatar

    kendall cuddles

    February 21, 2021 at 12:27 am

    The answer to the question posed in the title is yes, art is a waste of time when the world is burning. You didn’t need to make a speech about it.

    Go make art and scare a dictator? But when the dictator is a cult called Woke who unperson you and can make it so your art never is seen in the first place, yes, art is a waste of time.

  54. Avatar

    ASHOK KUMAR.S

    February 21, 2021 at 4:30 am

    Yes Brooks and then your story is very motivation

    • Avatar

      99Bitcoins 99Bitcoins

      February 21, 2021 at 9:25 am

      Write my professional broker

  55. Avatar

    온본은

    February 22, 2021 at 12:27 am

    So inspirational..i see the power of art and power of people!

  56. Avatar

    Tanishiqa Gupta

    February 22, 2021 at 5:52 am

    Thank you so much for this! As a young person wanting to pursue a career in creative arts, I have struggled with similar self-doubts that what I wanna do is not important like making vaccines, etc. But I feel a new vigour for my artistic passion after listening to this. Thank you ❤️🙏🏼.

  57. Avatar

    Mel Paradise

    February 24, 2021 at 6:39 am

    Greetings from Portland Oregon, where I’m also a full time artist. Solidarity! Our business was harassed by right wing nut jobs back in October, but that hasn’t stopped myself or anyone on my team from creating all throughout quarantine. We’re aware of the power of art and no amount of angry nonsense is going to change where we stand from a place of solid experience. There’s a spiritual facet to it that a lot of people don’t want to acknowledge, but it doesn’t change the fact that it’s reality. Art is powerful. Never stop making art. It’s literally magic.

  58. Avatar

    Erica S

    February 25, 2021 at 3:23 am

    Oh wow. This brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for sharing your story. Thank you!

  59. Avatar

    Kacie Devaney

    February 25, 2021 at 4:33 am

    Agreed ! Art is power, art is change, freedom, healing for the world. Thank you for the great talk!!

  60. Avatar

    Mary Hernandez

    February 25, 2021 at 7:47 pm

    Guernica

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