Oct 4, 2001

Art and war.

An email from FLASH ART. Politi's asking his readers the following questions:

Come reagirà ora l'arte dopo l'attacco alle Twin Towers? (How will art react to the Twin Towers attack)?

Come cambierà il mondo dell'arte? (How will it change the art world?)

E il mercato?(And the market?)

Included with this email is a letter from the artist Maurizio Cattalan expressing his inability to create something worthwhile for the Triana Biennale. He says Da qualche parte ho letto che finché c'è una guerra, l'arte non può nulla. In other words, as long as there's war, art can't do anything.

So what is this suppose to mean, that artists should forget about making art if there's a war going on. Which thus leads to some questions: what's art for? what's the role of art in terms of our daily lives? is art important only if we plan to visit a museum or gallery over the week-end?

The Biennale of Venezia showed that art today is very depressing. Many artists today seem to feel the need to overwhelm. And in their desire to overwhelm, they are conformists. Their artwork is full of gore and sleeze and excess. They glorify the ugly and treat beauty with contempt.

The Attack of America has changed many things. Including our daily aesthetics. As of September 11, violence is no longer in vogue.

The profound has replaced the sacred.
At one point in the story of art, the representational was substituted by the abstract. A visible physical reality was replaced with an invisible spiritual reality. But eventually the image was re-introduced. Exterior dominated interior. Surface replaced depth. But sooner or later the inside must come out. And this is where the role of the artist comes in.

During the 80's when the economy was good, Italian art critics, such as Achille Bonito Oliva, said that if an artist was not famous by 35, he'd never become famous. Thus a whole group of Baby Boom artists were produced (by the critics, of course) and dumped on us. "Giovani artisti" became a new kind of commodity. You bought their work not because they had anything to say but because they were trendy.
When I was in college, our art professors told us not to even consider having one-man shows before the age of 40. However, young artists today are encouraged by the system to immediately have exhibitions. And alot of them--whether or not they have something worth showing. And to get attention, they often try to overwhelm you with gore. They want to be transgressive even if there are no more artistic boundaries to burn. But no artists can overwhelm you more than that which happened to the Twin Towers. And maybe that's why these artists are intimidated by what happened...their gore can't go beyond that of the Towers.
But art isn't meant to a be a form of shock therapy.

Mood Makers.
In a time of confusion and disorientation, artists are even more important. In a world full anxiety, art is needed to help transcend the ugliness of destruction. To modify the imbalance created by this destruction, artists need to create. Artists must help man restore his faith in man. Art should be a friend, a complice. Art should act as a reminder that there is more than just hatred and evil in this world.

The soul is sickened by the awareness of evil and feels helpless. Grief, mourning and death stimulate our pessimistic self and we thus concentrate on the negation of life. We need the artist's help to regenerate our spiritual self. To wake up our sense of consciousness and to revive the spirit of optimism. It's time for artists to ease up on form and to concentrate more on content. And instead of promoting a sense of alienation, art should reintegrate intself into our society. It takes more than a long series of exhibitions to create an artist.

A suggestion to artists: try to do your job in the same way the firefighters of New York did theirs.


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