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Re: <eyebeam><blast> fire and more fire

Olu Oguibe wrote:

> beauty--yet, as the igbo of biafra say, all beauty end in dirt. if
> beauty may not rise to the call of the needy, or indeed make way, 
> where then is its essence? when a voice in the wilderness beckons and 
> asks: "there is fire in the forests of brazil; what shall we do?" 
> shall we cry in return: the horror, the horror? or shall we go beyond 
> the silly rhetoric of bad poetry and do something concrete to help? 
> may we not, on the other hand, exercise our right to face away and 
> indulge in the silly rhetoric of bad poetry? are we under any 
> obligations? are we not, afterall, free?
> in 1993 i painted what i consider one of my valedictory pictures, for
> the year after i would lay down my brushes never again to paint.
> "painter" dealt with my own frustration at the what i considered the
> overall impotence of art in the face of the particular challenges i
> had hoped to engage. under the circumstances i found it more fruitful 
> to be at the barricades, to petition, to run the midnight newsletter 
> or lampoon, to meet with members of the house of lords, to be 
> detained. my paintings drew consternation on the gallery floors, and 
> my poetry tears from the eyes of women, but neither dug a hole in the 
> walls of the goals behind which my friends languished. neither 
> returned to me the freedom to walk in my own country which had been 
> taken from me. "he was a painter," the poet of palestinian liberation 
> wrote, "but paintings do not open doors."

...Surely, sir, your paintings "opened doors" of some description,
possibly within your own head, or else why would you have bothered
making them in the first place? Surely you are not confusing activism
with certain somewhat more intimate practices which we gather (loosely)
under the term "art", and which you seem to be trying to justify in
terms of activism and not in terms of art. And surely you would agree
that "art" as a practice has served many people in different ways. Don't
forget political prisoners --intellectual prisoners or otherwise--and
many individuals of farflung cultures over centuries suffering under
various instances of political duress and oppression, from Osip
Mandlestam to Breyton Breytonbach, not to mention the undistinguished,
the anonymous, or the forgotten.... Activism, "change", may not even
have always been the point. There are other points. I'm sure your tirade
against "arty-farty" self-righteous so-called activists is
well-deserved, but your subsequent generalizations seem to me to miss. 
We all bear a responsibility when it comes to how we contribute to our
daily fabric--be it painting, be it cooking, be it fighting bureaucracy,
be it tying the shoelaces of children, be it experimenting with web-art,
be it flinging away our brushes and fighting fires (are the two mutually
exclusive?)--with presence of mind, awareness, etc. etc. I don't find
that metaphor about paintings and doors so very instructive; the fact
is: there are all kinds of doors that need opening, and only certain
things open certain doors.

Joy G.

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