16th Art Division Critiques
Empathy for Earnestness
The 3.11 disaster taught us that our use of electricity links us directly to the problem of handling nuclear waste far into the distant future. How are we now to consider the possibilities of artistic expression predicated on electrical power? Are those of us who live surrounded and managed by information networks really capable of "freely" creating something? Taking place as they did during a period when such questions could not be ignored, our jury screenings became a process of seeking a response to those questions from artists around the world. We were not looking for answers per se, or paths to the future. Rather, we wanted to know how the artists dealt with the technologies we have in hand today. Here the notion of "beauty" extolled throughout (western) art history no longer serves as a meaningful criterion for judgment. What concerns us is the earnestness of an artist's stance toward expression. Of course, one cannot overlook such factors in an artwork as the originality of the idea, the will and technique to execute it, the inimitable sensibility that we call talent, and the "perfection" of the finished work -- the degree to which it achieves its ends. But even when all these elements are in place, we do not experience a deep-seated empathy with the work, however highly we may evaluate it, unless it arises from this earnestness, this indwelling urgency, on the part of the artist.
From these words the reader may get the impression that we selected only abstruse, deadly serious works, but as you can see from the selections themselves, this is not the case. After all, people facing the direst circumstances respond in countless different ways -- some wail in lament, while others betray no emotion on their faces, or even laugh out loud. None of these behaviors is "wrong."
For me, the screening process this year was our earnest response to the earnestness of these artists.