Saturday, March 20, 2010

Art, Nation and Memory

What do you think an artist is? An imbecile who has only eyes if he is a painter, or ears if he is a musician or a lyre in every chamber of his heart if he is a poet, or even, if he is a boxer, just his muscles? Far, far from it: at the same time, he is also a political being, constantly aware of the heartbreaking, passionate, or delightful things that happen in the world, shaping himself completely in their image. How could it be possible to feel no interest in other people, and with a cool indifference to detach yourself from the very life which they bring to you so abundantly? No, painting is not done to decorate apartments. It is an instrument of war.

- Picasso in an interview with Simone Tery, March 24, 1945

“An artist cannot fail; it is a success to be one.” Art is a form of personal expression, which goes beyond having a purpose, for no artist is a success or a failure, as he creates to speak the only way he can: by creating more art. However, sometimes art takes such a form that it has the ability to encompass the complexities of life and the travails of humanity, where the brush strokes are made, keeping in mind the conscience of a nation. When nations go through turbulent times, it’s often art that brings out the spirit and the struggle of the people. It is then used simultaneously as a weapon and as a support system, to inflict and heal wounds at the same time. There is an undying quality about art which allows it to be timeless, and for the discerning reader, it offers a multitude of reflections. It’s a harbinger of learning’s for the future, and memories of the past are evoked.

The past and the future together create the present, for it is impossible for the present to exist without the cognizance of the past or a vision for the future. It is only natural that nations rely on their past and history to define and identify themselves. It gives them the legitimacy to carry on with their ideas and present it to the future generations to come. However, how does a nation confront its past when it has been a victim of the mistakes of its own people? Is it prudent to forget such a past, glossing over it and covering up the mistakes done by its people? Or should the nation be constantly reminded of the wrong road once taken, to ensure that the same path is never trodden again. This is where precisely art comes in, as it does not allow people to forget, the follies of God’s greatest creation.

When nations are under conflict, along with war and the loss of their identity, many things have been confiscated from the people: not only their homes and their possessions but also their memory. It’s an invisible loss which one fails to see in the state of misery and obvious losses. However, it is a loss which is far more important, for it exists in the realm of the mind, a territory often considered difficult to access. Moreover, war by its nature is made to be a human condition which encourages amnesia, which leads us to a situation where we erase one memory and construct a new one – we are forever in a state of enforced amnesia and enforced remembrance.

But most importantly, the arts intend to explore the critical questions: What is history and what is memory, what is personal and what is collective memory? Collective memory arises out of the consciousness of the personal memory of people. However, collective memory can be erased and rewritten, constructed and reconstructed, confiscated and confiscated and deemed politically correct or incorrect. The constant struggle for the territory of collective memory is the reason behind the political and power struggle. So while the world mourns the losses the nation incurred, one must not forget that the misfortune of others is free and does not hurt. We may sympathize and pity, but it will be forever hard for us to comprehend the actual truth, to truly understand and comprehend the losses of the people. Collective memory is one such loss, which being multifaceted and complex could be grasped only by the people who have been victims. It could be safely said that while the nation intends to construct a new collective memory, through its art, a reconfestication of the lost collective memory is warranted.


Venky said...

Wow:0 lovely post.. Ur writing sounds so matured these days..Keep writing more.. While Sri Lanka is still bleeding, I wonder if there is an artist out there trying to reconcile those painful memories and envisioning to build a better future...

Siddhartha Prakash said...

"It could be safely said that while the nation intends to construct a new collective memory, through its art, a reconfestication of the lost collective memory is warranted"

Lovely conclusion..