It May Be That Beauty Has Strengthened Our Resolve
Para/Site Art Space Until Apr 28
The decorum of this group exhibition at Para/Site Art Space, which seeks to capture the tension surrounding art’s uncertain intersection with the present, is austerely minimal. If there are beauty and poetry to be found from this selection of films, artworks and biographies, they are hidden behind the lush curtains of Patrizio di Missimo (Curtain #8 – Love, 2013), the over and under-exposed frames of Philippe Grandrieux’s titular film on Masao Adachi, the mundane photo-portraits of Mladen Stilinovic’s Artist at Work (1978), and the dreary, documentary-like discussions about poetry in Lü Yue’s The Obscure (1999-2006).
If you expect beauty to capture your vision, you will be left disappointed. But if you keep still and listen to the calm voice of Masao Adachi, narrating about filmmaking, art and revolution, the poetic appeal of his resolve may slowly grow into you; it is built upon suffering and injustice, he says: the sufferings of his mother as a poor peasant during WWII Japan, of the Palestinian guerrilla fighters, as well as his constant failure to make sense of life. Life is emptiness, ‘all is nothing’, he quotes Zen. And only ‘beauty will save the world’, we hear another quote from Dostoevsky. Yet, in a society of consumers, where can true beauty be found?
The display on which the film runs is positioned against the front window of the space, so that the city outside overlaps with the projection indoors. Tokyo and Hong Kong – often considered the par excellence sites of consumerism and political apathy – play the contextual ground in Adachi’s poetic introspection about art as revolution. The works selected by curator Cosmin Costinas are rarely utopian – or naïve – in their message. The beauty springs through a paradox: all artists acknowledge the growing impotence of art and poetry in contemporary society and the fruitless hopes for revolutionary transformation; yet they nevertheless keep their resolve alive and kicking.
In Praise of Laziness (1993), Mladen Stilinovic’s statement printed on paper, he advocates non-action as the best possible action. Abstinence from ‘movement and thought’ is what bares the most transformative power in a society of producers and consumers and of hierarchical systems, where art, poetry and beauty are sold and bought. In the same trajectory of thought, Lü Yue, with the film The Obscure, puts poetry’s potential to purify under analytical scrutiny. While it might seem that poetry is disappearing from modern life, where people have turned their focus on worshipping money and comfort, beauty and poetry are still the main actors that give existence its passion – even if they’re acting in disguise in their bid to altering the very ground of their deadly enemy: the prosaic everyday life.