mindmarrow

July 20, 2016 Repository 193: On Truth, Beauty and Listening Posted In: art practice, community, contemporary art, culture, perspective

I’ve been remiss in posting anything, though not for wanting to. Mostly because I am frozen in a vortex of loud conversations, horrific events and understanding where my responsibilities lie. I visited the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston the day after the Dallas shootings. I started in the ancient art galleries and moved all the way up to present galleries. It took a while, though I looked hard. I looked hard for other artists or visuals that may have been made to inspire change or a different way of perceiving. Naively I might add, as I have a pretty good handle on ancient arts, including ancient Chinese art, and I know full well that art over the centuries is a reflection of consensus and power especially in a museum context.  That said the hopeful light was in the contemporary galleries where you find artists whose practices are built around placing the viewer in a new zone of knowledge, understanding and perspective shifting. These were comforting works, providing new ways of looking.

Theaster Gates, "Sweet Land of Liberty", 2013, courtesy the artist and the MFA Boston. From the wall label: "Gates assembles these rhythmic stripes in red, white , blue and brown to strike a chord. He sewed them after learning to upholster rough materials from his own father, whose generation actively struggled for Civil Rights in the 1960s. In May 1963, Alabama authorities infamously used high-pressure hoses and attack dogs to disperse peaceful black demonstrators."

Theaster Gates, “Sweet Land of Liberty”, 2013, decommissioned firehoses, courtesy the artist and the MFA Boston. From the wall label: “Gates assembles these rhythmic stripes in red, white , blue and brown to strike a chord. He sewed them after learning to upholster rough materials from his own father, whose generation actively struggled for Civil Rights in the 1960s. In May 1963, Alabama authorities infamously used high-pressure hoses and attack dogs to disperse peaceful black demonstrators.”

While it’s easy to have nostalgia for craftsmanship of the past, the slower pace and the precision, I am so thankful to be living now when artists command viewers to take a different perspective, to reconsider the power structures instead of inspiring fear as much of the ancient arts do. The events of the last few months have raised such a level of fear and questions of who’s in power, I can only hope that it will inspire artists to make meaningful work, to lead with love and not fear and to share something beautiful and of consequence. The beautiful sits right next to the tragedy and needs to be held in the highest regard. What you put your attention on grows stronger.

Liz Deschenes, "Green Screen #4", image courtesy the artist and ICA Boston. From wall text: "Green screens are commonly used in television, film and video game production. Deschenes created this interpretation by mounting a 15-foot long monochrome photograph to Duratrans, a material used for commercial photography displays. Green screens are typically invisible to the viewers, but Deschene's is both a photograph and a backdrop. Dating to the 1930s, the technology was initially developed for film using blue backdrops, but with the advent of digital technologies green became the dominate color for special effects. As darker skin tones do not composite well on blue screens, the move to green screens also signaled increased visibility of African-Americans in the cultural and entertainment realm. With this body of work, Deschenes offers a subtle commentary on the changing perceptions of race and its relation to the history of film and photographic technologies."

Liz Deschenes, “Green Screen #4”, 2001/2016, double laminated inkjet print on Duratrans, image courtesy the artist and ICA Boston. From wall text: “Green screens are commonly used in television, film and video game production. Deschenes created this interpretation by mounting a 15-foot long monochrome photograph to Duratrans, a material used for commercial photography displays. Green screens are typically invisible to the viewers, but Deschene’s is both a photograph and a backdrop. Dating to the 1930s, the technology was initially developed for film using blue backdrops, but with the advent of digital technologies green became the dominate color for special effects. As darker skin tones do not composite well on blue screens, the move to green screens also signaled increased visibility of African-Americans in the cultural and entertainment realm. With this body of work, Deschenes offers a subtle commentary on the changing perceptions of race and its relation to the history of film and photographic technologies.”

I will continue to keep listening, reading and watching and hope that I can quietly make a contribution in some small way. I’ll sit in the spaces between the loud conversations, I’ll sit between the non-color and color conversations and try so hard to make truthful connections to people through art and conversation.

Last year a friend asked me to contribute to her project a small text on “beauty”. Small is hard with beauty, though I managed to eek something out. Upon writing it I realized it’s actually a profound yet rarely discussed thing –  beauty is confused often with hedonism though it has its own special purpose. I hope you’ll find some inspiration in the excerpt to carry on and make something beautiful and share it:

The New York Times “Guide to Essential Knowledge” omitted it, artists have ignored or subverted it for the past 100 years, and describing it eloquently and with consequence is akin to nailing jello to the wall.

It’s nature’s tool for survival: you want to protect what you fall in love with. It is poignancy, relative, and absolute equity.

We may only find it by dropping our prejudice and conditioned ways of seeing. We may only experience it with a disinterested attitude: you simply experience it, you don’t do anything to it or with it.

It is missing in many of our lives, and our imaginations, being replaced with utility and consumption. It has been deemed useless, however if you design something with it first it endures: nothing is more useful than the useless.

It is from another world, and I hope dear reader you find it when it touches you.

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3 Comments

  1. Dixie • July 20, 2016

    This is a particularly arresting passage:
    "We may only find it by dropping our prejudice and conditioned ways of seeing. We may only experience it with a disinterested attitude: you simply experience it, you don’t do anything to it or with it."

    Thank you for giving me something to ponder today. Reply


    • Catherine Haley Epstein • July 21, 2016

      My pleasure Dixie! Thank you for reading, and especially and most importantly for thinking! Peace - C Reply


    • Catherine Haley Epstein • July 21, 2016

      PS. Another thought for pondering (regarding thinking and choosing what to think about) "Twenty years after my own graduation, I have come gradually to understand that the liberal arts cliché about teaching you how to think is actually shorthand for a much deeper, more serious idea: learning how to think really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience. Because if you cannot exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed. Think of the old cliché about "the mind being an excellent servant but a terrible master". - David Foster Wallace Reply


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