In light of the recent events in Paris, Artlyst reflects on the artists engagement with society in times of socio-political crisis; either influencing or being influenced by events; surely works should remind and speak directly to concerns relating to human rights, and freedom of speech?
There were seven coordinated terror attacks in Paris carried out by militants, a series of attacks that killed at least 129 people. The first attacks were launched virtually simultaneously, with two explosions close to the Stade de France at just after 9.20pm local time, four miles apart. The explosions came as a large crowd were enjoying the first half of the international friendly between France and Germany with François Hollande in attendance.
The attackers continued their assault on freedom opening fire on the Petit Cambodge Cambodian restaurant in Rue Bichat, and the Le Carillon bar on the other side of the road. The perpetrators gunned down diners and revellers at the two venues, killing 15 as many enjoyed their Friday night out. The fourth attack came on Rue de la Fontaine au Roi, when the same unit of terrorists drove 500 yards to the Casa Nostra pizzeria and opened fire on diners, killing at least five.
The devastating attacks on the heart of French culture and freedom resulted in the near unprecedented closure of The Louvre, Pompidou and the Musee D’Orsay, as a show of solidarity with the victims. Meanwhile in Trafalgar Square hundreds of people gathered to show solidarity with France by holding a candle light vigil in central London. The French Tricolour was projected on the fountains as well as the face of the National Gallery.
As ISIL justifies the destruction of cultural heritage sites as a means of wiping the cultural slate clean, leaving no traces of any previous culture or civilisation and providing an ideal platform for the group to establish its own identity, it has never been more important to refresh the notion of Liberté, égalité, fraternité in French culture, and more importantly in art.
The artists’ response to this horrendous attack against liberty and freedom should be to embrace the ability of art to express the beauty of all cultures, the right for all societies to express their own identity – and with fraternité – to remind society that we struggle endlessly for the right to égalité – and to do this peacefully. So as in Eugène Delacroix’s famous painting – let Liberty lead the people – but let it lead through the creation of socio-culturally inclusive art, not ongoing destructiveness.
Words: Paul Black © Artlyst 2015.