I’m back at school at Hampshire and loving my course “Writing and Speaking about Art”.
I’ve written about how blessed and lucky I feel to go to college at 28 years old. One of my courses, “Writing and Speaking About Art” is just another example of why.
There was a traveling exhibit at Hampshire for a week. You can learn about it here.
“The “Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here” is not a war project, nor is it a healing project.”
These works resonated with me deeply. A car-bomb exploded on the “Al-Mutanabbi Street, killing and wounding thousands. But it also destroyed a street legendary for it’s literary jewels and treasured book shops. What do you call the effects of a tragedy like that? And what does society do to make amends? This exhibit examined the attempt to erase stories, memories, documentation that we exist. Books are just stories. But what is the power of a story?
I instantly was affected by the eclectic mediums. There were altered books, blood-red paintings. Poetry on the wall with large words. Illustrations of towers of books. Art made these books sacred – it was a way of preserving the stories of a culture, and a way of examining the attempt to erase history.
These books that were destroyed contained thousands of stories, and this exhibit attempted to bring them back t life like a beautiful mosaic – shattered and different, yet even more beautiful. There were altered books on display, beautiful illustrations in pen and ink.
Can you erase memory?
By seeing this exhibition, I came away with the thought that yes, these books are burned, and tragically, so many lives are lost. But the story is not. The story goes on – different, but beautiful all the same. Passing by every ripped page, every altered book, sculpture and book under glass, I saw the healing power of art and stories.
Does art really heal?
This was not and exhibit about “healing” as we have come to know the term. I see the “healing” in this exhibit as the everyday process of healing – as natural as growing, learning evolving and changing. We “heal” as we learn. We “heal” as we document. We “heal” as we tell our stories. Art is a beautiful way of telling those stories – putting images to what we wish to document but are unable to express in words and making a beautiful mosaic of shattered stories.
Why do our stories matter?
In history we see the constant attempt to destroy, limit and censor knowledge. There is tremendous power in words, in knowledge, in stories. The books on Al-Mutanabbi street may have been destroyed. But through the work of artists and the desire to mend a community, these fragmented words have become a collage of power, history and knowledge.
Art is how I document who I am. Art is how I tell my story.
This exhibit showed me that I am not alone in feeling this way.