International Affairs Specialist by day, Blogger Enthusiast by night. This is a sneak peek into my world that should be enjoyed with ample time and a good and very strong cup of java.
I’ve been thinking a lot about how art imitates life. Who could forget the music that characterized much of the 60’s? Buffalo Springfield, Joan Baez, Jefferson Airplane to name a few. That was protest and self expression all at once. And it’s not just in western culture either; I read yesterday how Sufi poetry in India speaks out against the caste system in India and listened to a report on art that was destroyed in the Haitian earthquake a few weeks ago and what a great tragedy it was for the nation. How to replace historic pieces? It’s seems parallel to losing all your belongings in a fire, except instead of one lifetime’s possessions, it was many century’s worth for the entire population.
The arts are a way of telling history (who could forget the wall paintings by the ancient Egyptians?); an establishment of a nation’s identity. Why else would Israeli’s have looted the Palestinian Research Center upon its invasion into South Lebanon in 1982? But when we go to the world’s most established and renowned art center’s, they’re full of artworks from abroad; Greece, Rome, China, Persia, India. Relics of a colonial past? The net worth of the artifacts alone would be astounding, and I’m therefore not surprised about the growing number of lawyers involved in the art trade and recovery.
When I first arrived in Austria, there was a case that surfaced surrounding Gustav Klimt’s work – perhaps the most famous Austrian painter – who’s works were left behind by the fleeing family during WW2. I arrived in Vienna, just in time to see the paintings before the US Supreme Court ordered them to be returned to the family, which now resides in the US. This is one of a very small number of cases, validating the return of property to its rightful owner. It’s debatable whether or not these artworks were national treasures or whether the expulsion of the artist himself invalidated that claim.
I enjoy the arts and am always eager to hear what’s new on the radio or wander the galleries. I’ve got to say though, I haven’t been too impressed with modern thoughts and ideas being reflected in music or in art. Of course, there’s been some bands, who have had personal experiences or strong sentiments toward a given issue – U2’s ‘Sunday, Bloody Sunday,” Midnight Oil’s “Beds are Burning,” Neil Young’s “Rocking in the Free World,” but in general, the type of work that is crowding the airwaves is not nearly as reflective of reality as it used to be… or is it? Do people just not have the same feelings toward Iraq and Afghanistan as the did toward Vietnam? And do visual artists feel more compelled to be abstract or modern in their paint strokes than the impressionists or renaissance painters? Are they torn between making a profit or making a statement?
It’s truly amazing what the arts can do for a pysche and a society. It can up-lift, invigorate, motivate, tell history all at once and be treasured for years to come – definitely something to be treasured!