Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Machine, It Just Doesn't Stop

Clamoring in my brain was the voice of my very own president who said we have to go to war for democracy (i.e. in support of oil and the military industrial complex) and kill others to be free--the night the old man and I began the BBC's The Private Life of a Masterpiece series. In each episode, one piece of art is analyzed, discussed, and extensive historical background is provided for the piece, how it reached its current housing, along with some biographical background of the artist if any exists.

The first one we watched was centered around Francisco Goya's "May 3, 1808," which depicts the execution of those thought to be involved in an uprising against Napolean's army. (I say "those thought to be involved" because any man with a weapon was rounded up and executed). In the painting, the men are shot and also stabbed to be sure they died. During the episode, a really interesting discussion about the soldiers ensues. They are described as a machine and x-rays of the painting shows how they were sort of "stroked" together as one, particularly hard and fast brushstrokes given to their guns. The soldiers' faceless posture, their boxy yet triangular stance, pushing forward yet hiding behind their weapons, hiding behind some form of democracy they were supposed to represent made me kind of wonder where everyone's descendants are. Where are the children of those who died? What are they doing now? What happened to those soldiers?

One of the talking heads is Leon Golub, I'll admit, an artist I'm not very familiar with. He said so many powerful things and I know I'm going to butcher what he said that struck me the most. Our leaders do terrible things that hurt so many people, all in the name of freedom and democracy, and they don't understand why no one thanks them. It made me think about former president's Bush's visit to Iraq, how no one thanked him for what he'd done and in fact, a shoe was thrown at him. How could someone who is trying so hard to follow in Bush's footsteps receive the Peace Prize? To quote my friend Walter: "As president, it is Mr. Obama's prerogative to keep the war machine going, whether or not that is what he truly believes is best for the nation."

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