Friday, December 9, 2011

What sets us apart

Among the many strange subjects I explore, I can think of none stranger than human beings themselves.  Why do we do the catastrophic things that we do?  As the venerable Charles M. Schulz once said through one of his characters, “I love mankind.  It’s people I can’t stand.” 

Today in The New York Times, I read about an art exhibit that touches on that notion.  We, as a species, are afraid of many things but I’m willing to bet that what we fear the most is each other.  I know that I for one would place “people” at the very top of my stack of things to fear and be disgusted by.  So I do things to keep myself protected and the rest of the population at bay.  Multimedia artist Muntadas has been exploring this sort of action for decades now through photography and illustration in a number of different art installations.  A retrospective exhibit of pieces of his artwork is now ongoing at The Bronx Museum of the Arts in New York City.  As the author of the link above says:

“In the show’s most complicated project Mr. Muntadas examines a modern architectural form with ancient antecedents: the stadium. It includes a video montage of exuberant and violent soccer fans; a video projection of soccer players celebrating after scoring goals; and a set of triptychs, each with photographs of a stadium, spectators and fences, seats, railings and other devices by which crowds are organized and controlled. This is one way that enormous, exhilarating and sometimes destabilizing human energy is diverted into, and contained by, an integrated structure of architecture and programmed entertainment.”

The reviewer who wrote the article seems lukewarm on Muntadas’ work, claiming it to be too restrained in matters of creativity and emotion and perhaps too academic in a vein of Michel Foucault (as Pa Nichols once said, “Every academic cites Foucault but nobody knows what the heck he’s saying.”)  I tend to disregard reviews, allowing myself to make up my own mind.  That said, one can’t very “unread” what has been read so the opinion is still rattling about my cobwebbed brain when viewing or reading the piece in question.  Despite the NYT’s ambivalent viewpoint, I would still be very interest to see this exhibit of art.

After all, Muntadas seems to be delving into an important subject, the notion of social isolation on scales both singular and global, a thesis to which I feel a personal connection.  That alone would worth the price of admission…that is, if I could get to New York.

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