Friday, October 31, 2008

Inhabiting Political Art

Must an artist inhabit the role she presumes to represent? How does this role connect to the political revolutionary?

Bile, one of Nuruddin Farah's protagonists in Links, explains, "an artist representing an image cannot presume to be an artist unless he is able to be the very figure being represented. Likewise, a man with a radical image who's spent years in detention for political reasons must act forthrightly and without fear of the consequences."

The comment links the artist and the radical. Both must act forthrightly and without fear to have an impact. But, what does it mean to be the figure being represented? An artist can inhabit the revolutionary role with an imagination that builds characters, scenes, and story through links to the real. Or, the artist can be the firgure represented and present a realist version of events from personal memory in order to convey a political point. The artist can be either inside or outside, but either way must present a threshold for the reader to pass through, which evokes meaning and provokes response. How does the artist reach that point?

Saturday, October 25, 2008

A Poet, a Picture, and a Gun

This poem is a gun
This poem's an assassin
Images mob my mind …
This pen’s a spear, a knife
A branding-iron, an arrow
Tipped with righteous anger
It writes with blood and bile
- Maxamed Xaashi Dhamac ‘Gaarriye’

Art's warfare ... from where does it derive its power?

Friday, October 3, 2008

War's Missed Connections

"In the shadows of war and politics there came to be surreal turns of cause and effect."

This line from Anil's Ghost possessed me while I was reading the first part of the book. The unreal aspects of war, the horror, the trauma, collapse all sense of truth and understanding, history and memory. Ondaatje explores how fear infiltrates a country so pervasively that nobody can recognize the reality of individual lives. Is this what happens in all wars? Cause and effect become propaganda and history the fiction written in a time of exception?

The text explores these questions but also initiates a response. It attempts to empower mechanisms to bridge the gap between past and present, the bones of the dead that lie in the earth, the stories of relatives, literature. How do we read the surreal world that disconnects life from its own story?

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

We Varied Nomads

A Distant Shore sets up a comparison between the way two people travel. One, an immigrant, crossing and recrossing borders until he comes to live in an England he did not expect. Another, a long-time resident who does not recognize England after living there her entire life. The effects on each vary, but they both take journeys in an effort to find a place in the world. And, they both lose a sense of self, changing throughout the text while attempting to recover the past.

"If I do not share my story, then I have only this one year to my life. I am a one-year-old man who walks with heavy steps. I am a man burdened with hidden history."

Memory, story, voice, is literature an act of recovery? Does it provide the journey we all need to take to find/see purpose and gain a sense of self? Is this only an insight the nomad can realize, having crossed into different perspectives to gain her or his own?