Feb 20, 2012

The Original Facebook

"It has been said the Renaissance
witnessed the recovery of the individual."
from Metropolitan Museum catalog, The Renaissance Portrait from Donatello to Bellini

"Those who wish never to be forgotten
by the world, let them come to be portrayed by Pisanello."
Ottaviano delgi Ubaldini

26, Turkish, single

"I have been exposed to violence since my childhood, sometimes physically, sometimes psychologically.  I feel very weak and worthless.  Despite my motivation to live, I see things happening that I cannot prevent.  I can't stop thinking that my life has been stolen.  Sometimes I blame myself for letting these things happen.  I have been in the shelter for a month.  I want to start a new life.  I don't know if I can.  But despite everything, I am beginning to feel strong again here."

34, Serbian, married two children

"In the beginning I thought that his jealously was a sign of love, so I ignored the violence.  I loved him and believed that the violence would eventually stop.  During the war, however, it became worse.  I am Serbian and he is Muslim: my nationality became a new reason for him to abuse me.  I went through hell.  He brought home his war companions and forced me to kiss their boots while they called me a Serbian whore.  After spending twelve days in the hospital, I decided to take my children and leave.  I am in a shelter now, and I hope to change my life".

SANJA IVEKOVIC: Sweet Violence, MoMA

Going to a show at a museum is a visual experience for me.  I am not one for reading the information supplied on the walls, that comes later. 

The two pieces above are part of a work called "Women's House"  by the artist, feminist and activist, Sanja Ivekovic.   The visuals are from sunglass ads for  Gucci, Prada, Calvin Klein, etc..  The words are quotes from various women residing in shelters throughout Europe.
The work of Sanja Ivekovic seemed dated, not because the pieces go back to the 1970's, but because the obvious feminist content did not transcend the boundaries of its politics. I found the work entirely forgettable, except for  these simple declarative sentences by women whose lives are lived on the edge.

That was Saturday. 
On Sunday, I wandered over to the Met and tackled the exhibition, exhibition
Renaissance Portrait from Donatello to Bellini.   As I went from room to room, I thought about the contrast between the Ivekovic's narrative portraits and portraits of the artists of 15th century Italy.  Looking at these pictures you don't know the specifics of a life lived, but you still know a lot.  You know if they were haughty or humble,  an optimist or pessimist, a secretive or transparent person, a conqueror or survivor, a skeptic or an innocent, and on and on. 

We prefer the photograph today, we think it tells us everything about a person we need to know.  The exhibit at Met shows us everything we need to know and then some.


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