THE PURPOSE OF BEING
(An action of Harmony Reverberates Optimism)
Curated by Ronald Lopez
Curatorial Assistant Sara DeSmet
LMU Coordinators SaeRi Cho Dobson and Jane Brucker
October 21 – November 3, 2010
Opening Reception Friday, October 29, 2010, 5pm-7pm
Arzu Arda Kosar
Elana Mann + Vera Brunner-Sung
Kristin Ross Lauterbach + Christina Lee Storm
SaeRi Cho Dobson
The Purpose of Being
In 1633, Rembrandt (Rembrandt van Rijn) created an elaborate interpretation of The Good Samaritan in dry point and etching. In the immediate foreground, Rembrandt depicted a defecating dog squatting and facing away from the “action.” The intention of this dog, according to Roland E. Fleischer and Susan C. Scott in their book “Rembrandt, Rubens, and the Art of Their Time: Recent Perspectives,” is two fold. First, it is to, “emphasize the sheer earthiness of the physical world in which the Samaritan performs his redemptive deed…” and secondly, “it may have been intended to imply a progression from base animal behavior to the literally higher human acts required… to achieve eternal life.” The viewer’s eye is quickly moved from the gross reality of animal defecation to the transcendent focal point of the etching, the Good Samaritan himself paying the innkeeper to house the wounded man.
To explore more about the story of The Good Samaritan I chose to look at a speech by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. entitled I’ve been to the Mountaintop, recited on the day before his death, April 3, 1968. Dr. King said, ”… And he talked about a certain man who fell among thieves [wounded man]. You remember that a Levite and a priest passed by on the other side; they didn't stop to help him. Finally, a man of another race [Samaritan] came by. He got down from his beast, decided not to be compassionate by proxy. But he got down with him, administered first aid, and helped the man in need. Jesus ended up saying this was the good man, this was the great man because he had the capacity to project the "I" into the "thou," and to be concerned about his brother… And so the first question that the priest asked, the first question that the Levite asked was, "If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?" But then the Good Samaritan came by, and he reversed the question: "If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?" That's the question before you tonight. Not, "If I stop to help the sanitation workers, what will happen to my job?" Not, "If I stop to help the sanitation workers, what will happen to all of the hours that I usually spend in my office every day and every week as a pastor?" The question is not, "If I stop to help this man in need, what will happen to me?" The question is, "If I do not stop to help the sanitation workers, what will happen to them?" That's the question.”
This speech compels me to ask questions. What is my/our purpose for being? Is being about “me”? Is it situated in the here and now? How can I get known/paid/recognized apart from my fellow man? Being is present, conscious; the opposite of nothing. It is fundamental to the self and relates to living in the “sheer earthiness of the physical world.” Purpose on the other hand relates to the “action” at hand, the outcome, or idea that is the object of an action or other effort.
The Purpose of Being, the exhibition, has an origin and an intended outcome. The origin is Harmony Reverberates Optimism, an exhibit originally created for McNish Gallery at Oxnard College. Harmony was comprised of six artists and five works and was a celebration of women and their efforts to create social change through their art form. The artists involved pushed the limits and blurred the line between activist and artist. The works in the exhibit, like Rembrandt’s defecating dog, reflected the basest of realities. They exercised social criticism at its highest form through, not only aesthetically pleasing work, but art that provokes dialogue and pushes boundaries; art that is active and penetrates society in such a way that it promotes itself fiercely and unapologetically. To this end, Harmony serves as precursor to its now evolved counter part and “action,” The Purpose of Being. This original exhibit will be shown again in its entirety simultaneously at Jaus gallery.
The intention of The Purpose of Being is to take the ideas and injustices behind the Harmony show and elicit an “action,” which in turn develops Optimism. In such a way, as in Rembrandt’s Good Samaritan, it juxtaposes the base realities of life with higher moral human response. In The Purpose of Being, each artist will “activate” selected students from Loyola Marymount University and collaborate on social interventions that will lead to new discussions and art works exhibited during the Bellarmine Forum.
Artists included in The Purpose of Being are Amitis Motevalli, Arzu Arda Kosar, Elana Mann + Vera Brunner-Sung, Jane Brucker, Kristin Ross Lauterbach + Christina Lee Storm, Ofunne Obiamiwe and SaeRi Cho Dobson.
The works in The Purpose of Being will be varied and provocative:
Elana Mann + Vera Brunner-Sung’s work shows interest in performance as a cultural product and will investigate memory as a way to gauge how a non-object based practice produces effects upon the viewer. The student under their guidance will reinterpret the works of pioneer female performance artists, i.e. Simone Forte, Barbara T. Smith and Senga Nengudi.
Kristin Ross Lauterbach + Christina Lee Storm will revisit their 12 minute video, FLESH, which explores how U.S. citizens participate in the proliferation of human trafficking in the United States and around the world as it follows three survivors from slavery to freedom. Kristin and Christina approach their work with great conviction as they pull open the curtain to expose a world to which we may have otherwise been blind. With a sharp camera lens and syncopated movements, almost like a music video, the viewer is taken on a journey from a candy-coated world into the underbelly of a dark and desolate reality. The student under Ross Lauterbach and Lee Storm’s guidance will explore story-telling as a means to raise public awareness and elicit action/reaction.
SaeRi Cho Dobson, with her installation, 7 Deadly Seams, exposes an all too familiar industry, the dry cleaning business. What is presented via typography eloquently printed onto garments, covered with slick plastic and hung on typical dry cleaning hangers, actually represents horror stories of a rapidly-growing epidemic of immigrants being ‘taken to the cleaners’ by their customers. Cho Dobson’s title immediately evokes Dante’s Inferno with a modern twist. The profoundness in the work comes with great design and tells some of the most beguiling and atrocious stories that cannot help but make the viewer ill with injustice. Under Cho Dobson’s guidance, a student will further delve into the injustices involved in garment creation.
Amitis Motevalli’s work is hard hitting and resounds with such humanity that it invokes action. The power of her work lies in its “sexy” form, which entices the viewer to want more and, at the same time, engages them in such a way that they cannot deny the heart wrenching atrocities conveyed. Motevalli’s new work slated for The Purpose of Being show, will be part performance and part installation. Amitis has a long history of activating students to stand up for injustices committed against themselves and others.
Arzu Arda Kosar’s work is profoundly subtle yet deliberate. It is provocative and, at the same time, inviting. Its core beckons us all to question our stratosphere of “walls.” The psychological divisions and borders we have created due to social norms and cultural practices only perpetuate the cycle of “classism” and incite feuds amongst us all. Through maps and markers, video and sculpture, Kosar intends to expand her previous work into a full installation. Kosar will continue to explore psychological borders and inspire students in the creation of new maps/borders.
Ofunne Obiamiwe presents her latest project, Status of Women, an interactive project inspired by facebook that celebrates ten contemporary women and their leading roles in their respective fields. Obiamiwe previously created a forum with these women and, from that encounter, created a video, ten facebook like profile pages with a portrait of each women, including bras from each artist, and invited the viewer to write on their “walls”. Obiamiwe will lead students to explore how the creation of women’s bras may have contributed to the oppression of women.
Jane Brucker’s work tends to examine the themes of memory, fragility and death. Whether she creates an installation or an intimate piece, her sensibility has been able to capture the essence of life itself through the visceral and the spiritual. At the core of most social justice or human rights issues there lies the human spirit that will fight for justice. Brucker will explore these issues by activating students to collaborate on a video art piece.