What do you think an artist is? An imbecile who has only his eyes if he is a painter or his ears if he is a musician? …On the contrary, he is at the same time a political being, constantly on the alert to the heart-rending, burning, or happy events in the world, molding himself in their likeness. — Pablo Picasso
I received a message from my friend today saying she has noticed that in the aftermath of the horrific events in Israel and in the world, art work in different forms, from political cartoons to performance art, is being used to deal with the experience of horror and grief.
We’ve seen it in Edvard Munch’s The Scream, Picasso’s Guernica and we can see it in the most recent November 14th edition of Vanity Fair – France’s United We Stand – Paris 13 novembre : les hommages des dessinateurs.
Art is a dialogue and interaction; the creator puts something out there for the individual to see and experience; both sides are engaged.
“A good painting to me has always been like a friend. It keeps me company, comforts and inspires.” — Hedy Lamarr
As reflected in our earliest discoveries of European Ice Age rock art, often called ‘cave art’, humanity has always found a way to externalize our experiences through the visual medium of art.
As we have been experiencing lately, on an almost daily basis, we are being impacted upon by events and their images beyond our control. And now, as then, we use art to express and communicate that which is often beyond words; to transform and reconstruct images that express things not in our control, in a way in which we are able to regain some of that lost control.
The artwork creates a framework, a structure in which we can learn to make sense out of something that has lost its sensibility.
The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance. — Aristotle
Technology has expanded its boundaries of trauma; the individual who logs on to their computer and sees the images of the aftermath of a traumatic event, experiences what is referred to as vicarious or secondary trauma; either consciously or unconsciously. It’s a physiological reality that we, as biological units, cannot escape.
Personal trauma, community, national or international trauma, is there a difference? From the point of view of experiences, yes, from the point of view of what is involved, no.
A traumatic experience shakes us up from the core. Our sense of self and the world we live in is shattered, meaning is lost. The work that takes place post trauma is a healing that involves rebuilding, reframing and redefining. Sometimes based on the age of the trauma survivor it means building, framing and defining for the first time.
Human development needs to take place in a safe, familiar and predictable environment, whether that means the internal environment within the self, the body, or the family, community or nation. Art allows for a safe environment for healing; a familiar and predictable place where the building, framing and defining takes place.
“The conflict between the will to deny horrible events and the will to proclaim them aloud is the central dialectic of psychological trauma.” — Judith Lewis Herman, Trauma and Recovery
Art allows the individual to find his or her will to proclaim the traumatic experience aloud.
Understanding the culture in which the trauma takes place is crucial; the meanings, associations and expectations are all as important as the language. That is another reason art is an important means through which the healing work can take place.
Art has the potential to transcend cultural and national boundaries, helps to find that will to proclaim the horrible event and moves the individual to that core in which healing needs to take place.
Art is not a handicraft, it is the transmission of feeling the artist has experienced. — Leo Tolstoy