Art is such an intriguing thing. Sometimes it feels like it is one of the most subversive things there is. In others it feels like an example of force of those who already have it.
I just came home from watching a beautiful exposition of works by Picasso, Goya and Dali. The exposition was put out by my cousin and her colleagues. The public opening to the world is tomorrow. Today I was lucky to be invited to go to, and was accompanied by my almost 90 years old grandmother.
The topic was the Tauromaquia, in other words the bullfight. It is far from being something that I admire, though I must say I have never seen one, nor do I have the desire to see it. My grandmother, whose brother was years ago the Ambassador of Brazil in Spain took her to see it. So I watched those powerful paintings with mixed feelings. My grandmother told me she was very afraid to go to see the bullfight, but that it was one of the most impressive rituals that she had ever seen.
I heard it, still was convinced I still did not want to see it, but was wandering why three important painters would have painted it. Without a question it is part of their culture, but there was more to it. You could feel it was also a political act. Sometimes, a protest against Guernica itself. I could feel it, even before reading it.
I was brought back to England when I was taken to see an exposition of modern Art. I rarely like modern art because it is so plain obvious that one must be educated to accept that language, that I find it itself unfair and discriminating. In fact, in a sense, I find it less like art. Today, very few things had to be read, or explained for you to understand the power of these works. Had they had no names probably would make no difference to me.
But I was brought back to England to that exposition where nothing really looked like anything at all, unless you would read the titles, or hear the explanation of an “art specialist”. I was brought back to that moment when I saw this painting that looked nothing and decided to listen to the explanation. According to the that specialist that painting ( loads of nothingness with some colours) represented the pain of the victims of the conflict between Hutus and Tutsis. I simply could not believe it. I looked around to see if there was any african that would have the same feeling that I had, there wasn’t any and I asked a question.
“Who painted this? Where is this painter from? ”
“Has this person ever been to Rwanda or Uganda? ”
Obviously not. The expert was without words for a second and then gave me a lecture on the importance of modern art.
I was happy there was not a single African there. They were all mainly Europeans and I felt it would have been quite offensive to anyone who had been in a war to have seen that as the representation of their pain.
I thought so much about this after. How much do we have the right to portray that which we have not experienced? Probably all, after all in a sense we are all human beings who are survivors, and inheritors of every single massacre that takes place every single day.
However the brutality of that painting is not in portraying pain that is not yours. It is to expect that the other, even the direct victim of something will need to be educated into understanding it. That is quite violent.
So, as I walked around seeing paintings I wondered how can one know a true exposition from one made to be put in the media.
And as I was left to talk with a professor from an university in Milan who works with processes of peace through art , as well as with a diplomat and they spoke about the power of Art I could think of nothing but that art that IS art needs no explanation. Art in whatever shape that it is will always be subversive.
Even art that is just simply perfect, and beautiful is subversive. And with that thought I remembered that for instance, in Palestine one of the first movements towards radicalisation was to kill art.
Art does not need to be explained, it just needs to be allowed to bloom in whatever place and shape that feels it suits.
I still do not want to see a bullfight, yet I now could feel in my body the power that comes from it. Even without any explanation.