Monday, April 6, 2009
Sometimes a pretty picture is just a pretty picture, right?
I contemplated for a while on Subhankar Banerjee's work tonight. I kept thinking to myself after the lecture, were I heard him speak tonight, and after reading the essays by Finis Dunaway and Kelley E. Wilder on his work that I was missing something. I must be missing something because I'm lost here and have no idea what the big deal is. I'm being blunt yes, however I kept questioning many things and in the end I feel it was productive for me to question and this is why I chose to post true to my observations.
The first image of the lecture was of a polar bear eating the carcass of another polar bear. The image was striking, interesting, violent yet sympathetic. I thought to myself based on the readings this is going to be an amazing display of images and yes, this would draw attention to Washington. But then the energy died out. I was confused. I recall seeing a collection of images of the world from above. I cant really recall what this exhibition or collection of images was titled but it was at Millennium park, displayed outside. It was strange. Anyways this is what I kept reminding myself of as the images of aerial shot landscapes scrolled through the big projector. Then I though of Planet Earth the documentary special on the discovery channel, I think, which Disney is ripping off soon with their own version of it called Earth. There seems to be a trend here and really, the images just maintained an expected allure of what I would expect from a general Polar Ice Caps Google search. I understand I'm being highly critical here but based on the arguments made on the readings and the whole controversy surrounding the exhibiting of these photos, I was from the begining, a little confused at was going on.
So I got to thinking about the audience of this work. The Smithsonian, Capitol Hill, Republicans, etc. The people engaged in the conversation of these images were not your typical art engaging crowd. I really find it interesting that these photos could be approached a la NEA four. Would Senator Helms find this work a threat?
I questioned would Mr. Banerjeer have considered his photographs political if there had not been such a reaction to them? What about if he had not juxtaposed text with them? Would these images be considered political by anyone if they had not been brought up in politics by a politician in Washington? Context here is very important. The images are political and received such a reaction because a politician said they were proof of something much greater than a pure aesthetic exploration. The thing about aesthetics is that they never exist without filters. There's politics to the saying ; " Beauty is in the eye of the beholder." By extension I take this to mean also Beauty fuunctions within the realms of convenience and realtive goals.
I suppose many of these questions could be best answered by the artist himself, which Ill have the opportunity to discuss with in class tomorrow. I look forward to what Mr. Banerjeer has to say and to gain more insight on his practice. I find it fascinating that he is a scientist and that he is practicing visual communication with training in other fields. I find it is a very important component in contemporary culture to be multilingual on many levels to better grasp understandings and construct critical and progressive conversations on issues at hand.
I would like to add a panel form a project I'm currently working on. It serves relevant to the polar bear initiative of Banerjeers first trip to the arctic. Though it is a work in progress, I gained some thought in how I'm approaching it and comfort in how I'm approaching the work from this exposure to Banajeer.
I must stress however that a pretty picture sometimes is just a pretty picture. Felix Gonzalez Torrez once said "to be alive is to be political." To that I say everything is political, even beauty, but there is always other ways and in many aspects more critical ways to approach the political.