When each glance we take at reality is unique
As I was listening to the volunteer curator at the Corcoran Gallery of Art today explain the process Chuck Close uses to create his prints, I was wondering what is art? Where does the line between art and manufacturing process lies…
What is it that makes a piece of creativity more valuable than another? How do we select which moments to capture, store, and recycle in our collective memory? Indeed, Chuck Close recycles his own art, making each step, each iteration of the creative process original.
Maybe, art is when each glance we take at reality is unique.
Of course, words are labels; attempts to capture fleeting moments of life and put them into the box of something we think we can grasp. Then, how to label the repetition of painful experiences with no ability to see them in new light? Unart?
That is what I was wondering, later on, as I was watching Restrepo, the harrowing new documentary about a group of young U.S. Army soldiers in the Korangal Valley of Afghanistan. The camera takes you as close to the faces, and hearts, of these young man, as one could imagine. The loss of a friend, a brother in arms, is felt through words, images, silence, and sounds.
The movie starts with the beautiful Bulgarian folk song, “Izlel e Delyo Haidutin”, a choice which both delights and puzzles:
The memories of the soldiers, recycling the moments of fear, bravery, loss, and even fun, are art as well — painful art, reminding me of the precious fragility of life, making me appreciate the message of hope Shoghi Effendi conveys when writing about the unfolding new world order of Baha’u’llah:
National rivalries, hatreds, and intrigues will cease, and racial animosity and prejudice will be replaced by racial amity, understanding and cooperation. The causes of religious strife will be permanently removed, economic barriers and restrictions will be completely abolished, and the inordinate distinction between classes will be obliterated. Destitution on the one hand, and gross accumulation of ownership on the other, will disappear. The enormous energy dissipated and wasted on war, whether economic or political, will be consecrated to such ends as will extend the range of human inventions and technical development, to the increase of the productivity of mankind, to the extermination of disease, to the extension of scientific research, to the raising of the standard of physical health, to the sharpening and refinement of the human brain, to the exploitation of the unused and unsuspected resources of the planet, to the prolongation of human life, and to the furtherance of any other agency that can stimulate the intellectual, the moral, and spiritual life of the entire human race.
A world federal system, ruling the whole earth and exercising unchallengeable authority over its unimaginably vast resources, blending and embodying the ideals of both the East and the West, liberated from the curse of war and its miseries, and bent on the exploitation of all the available sources of energy on the surface of the planet, a system in which Force is made the servant of Justice, whose life is sustained by its universal recognition of one God and by its allegiance to one common Revelation — such is the goal towards which humanity, impelled by the unifying forces of life, is moving.
(Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha’u’llah, p. 204)
We desire but the good of the world and the happiness of the nations; yet they deem Us a stirrer up of strife and sedition worthy of bondage and banishment…. That all nations should become one in faith and all men as brothers; that the bonds of affection and unity between the sons of men should be strengthened; that diversity of religion should cease, and differences of race be annulled — what harm is there in this?… Yet so it shall be; these fruitless strifes, these ruinous wars shall pass away, and the ‘Most Great Peace’ shall come…. Yet do We see your kings and rulers lavishing their treasures more freely on means for the destruction of the human race than on that which would conduce to the happiness of mankind…. These strifes and this bloodshed and discord must cease, and all men be as one kindred and one family…. Let not a man glory in this, that he loves his country; let him rather glory in this, that he loves his kind….
(Baha’u’llah, The Proclamation of Baha’u’llah, p. viii)