Movement and ArtJanuary 5, 2010 Leave a comment
I am just returning from two weeks in Europe, the longest I’ve spent there. If you’ve ever been to Paris you know how strikingly glorious it is. Geneva and Amsterdam are also special places, with their own distinctive beauty, their own way about them. While there I had the opportunity to visit some amazing museums and I’m truly moved by the experience.
I’m struck by the thought that so much of the intentional beauty that I witnessed emerged out of social movements, intentional social projects – they were proposals for looking at the world, for ways of being in it. Paris seems to have evolved through multiple story lines about its destiny and its place in humanity. The shift from the art of the Louvre to the modern art of the Pompidou, and the biographical development of Van Gogh’s art all make movement very obvious. We can see the developmental shifts, the exploration, the experimentation and the provocation, the passionate search for meaning or definition, the eternal question.
Born in Puerto Rico, I have a sense of what it is to be a colonial subject, and so I’m not in any way ignoring the imperialist drive that fed Europe’s bounty, nor am I ignoring the horrors of global war and how so much of modern art is a response to despair. When I refer to intentional beauty born out of social movements I’m not excluding the social movements that drive to make kings into gods or distant lands into subjects, what I am saying is that these “artifacts of us” emerged within ever evolving contexts, they are part of particular stories about who we are.
Movement, the type of movement that liberates rather than enslaves, shares rather than accumulates, connects rather than excludes, the type of movement we need if we are indeed going to shift out of our current crisis, this type of movement is also part of story. As I return from Europe I wonder what are better ways for us to claim our own story of progress? What is our own story of greatness? What are ways in which our art can be expressive and defining of that story? What is the architecture for our time?