July 3, 2008

Art as a Dangerous Conversation

Last weekend was a cultural treat. My gallery excursions included a visit to Jack Rutberg Gallery where I got to hear Jack Rutberg speak. And I followed up a day at the galleries with an evening at the REDCAT theater to see The Actors Gang do a stage adaptation of George Orwell's 1984. And I realized a common theme: Art can be a very dangerous conversation.
First of all, Jack Rutberg is an amazing gallerist with an insightful and encyclopedic knowledge of art and art history (thank goodness he is writing a book!). It was interesting to hear Mr. Rutberg explain how revolutionary Francisco Zuniga's work was in his time, and how the artist had to fight exile because of it. I remember seeing quite a few Zuniga sculptures in the front gallery over the years, now I know it is one of Jack Rutberg's many ways of acknowledging art and its place in our history, beyond the aesthetics. Mr. Rutberg went on to discuss how totalitarian regimes always try to suppress art, which only demonstrates how truly vital art is to our cultures and lives. The lesson was clear: no matter what, art is beyond necessity.
This was the perfect conversation to prep me for my evening with The Actors Gang's stage adaptation of George Orwell's 1984. Apparently the project came about when director Tim Robbins revisited 1984 and realized that the work is even more relevant today than it was eight years ago, twenty years ago, or even sixty years ago. And the stage adaptation is literally a dangerous conversation: Wesley is being interrogated and tortured by a wing of the government that prosecutes "thought criminals." It is truly a dystopian world of totalitarianism, where the administration monitors all your behavior and thoughts, meeting all forms of self-expression with extreme cruelty. Tim Robbins also pointed out the totalitarian logic that wars are fought not to conquer other nations, but rather to deplete the aggressor nation's resources so that its own citizens are suppressed. The Actors Gang has traveled all over the world with this piece, from Athens to Hong Kong, and they claim that international audiences are clamoring "to find out what is really going on with America."
The conversation shifted this weekend, when I read "'Wall-E': A stealth Michael Moore-style attack on America?" in Patrick Goldstein's blog in the LA Times. I was already planning to see Wall-E over the weekend, and I'm glad I did. I thought it was a brilliant film and story, and whenever they come out with Wall-E plushy toys, I will definitely need one because I am a fan. But was it a scathing attack? No. But it was social criticism. Which is healthy. And entertaining. Read anything by Mark Twain to know why. And Mark Twain happens to be on this month's cover of Time Magazine (finally) with the cover story: "The Dangerous Mind of Mark Twain." Now that's a conversation!

:: bogna ::

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