May 22, 2022

Art telling the truth

There are times when severe crimes, no matter how high-profile, should have more audience. Milevska mentions the trial of Slobodan Milošević, which limped through a protracted trial and ended without a decision when the ex-Yugoslav president passed away in jail. Artist Ivan Grubanov got a visitors pass and went to the Criminal Tribunal in the Hague over the two-year trial, making illustrations of the proceedings. For victims of the war in Bosnia still awaiting a main apology from the Serbian federal government, Grubanovs anti-document serves as a rare public tip that Miloševićs trial even occurred, composes Milevska. Bearing the heavy weight of testament, even when not straight being a witness, is one appropriate role that artists have in modern troubled societies.

In springerin Suzana Milevska challenges the western principle of attesting. After checking out a collection of essays on Roma judicial customizeds based on testimonial “performances” that allow anyone present in court to be a witness, she started questioning stiff, subpoenaed variations of testament. Trust in witnesses who have not been vetted and scrutinized by the legal system and organizations of law is counterintuitive and unimaginable to westerners, composes Milevska.

Art as parrhesia

Artist witnesses

Bearing the heavy weight of statement, even when not straight being a witness, is one pertinent function that artists have in modern struggling societies.

In extreme situations such as the Holocaust, the Vietnam War and the Congo Wars, where statement may at first go unheard or be intentionally overlooked, the arts can offer another method of witness. The arts have a special ability to assess the fragile nature of testament, states Schmidt. Todays artists have actually taken on a role that in classical antiquity belonged to poets and theorists: parrhesia, the courage to honestly speak the fact, even if its risky for the witness. This quality would seem all the more important at a time when it is challenging to awaken audiences from their lethargy, immobilized as they are by the universal accessibility of details, hyped media testimonies and disastrous news.

This short article is part of the 1/2022 Eurozine evaluation. Click here to subscribe to our weekly newsletter to get updates on reviews and our newest publishing.

In an interview with Milena Dimitrova, theorist Sibylle Schmidt discusses her research study on testament within the arts. Art and testament are generally separated by a clear border, she states. A witness ought to report the realities and, if possible, not decorate anything. The arts are not bound to historic truth. They can play with possibilities, with fiction. However, statement, often based upon a linguistic structure, as proposed by Derrida, is also open to decoration, observes Schmidt.

In severe circumstances such as the Holocaust, the Vietnam War and the Congo Wars, where statement might at first go unheard or be deliberately overlooked, the arts can supply another method of witness.

Other interviewees include artists Uriel Orlow, whose work methods manifest destiny and the history of racism through botany and the archive; and Uzbekistani Wjatscheslaw Achunow, who speaks about his autobiographical work produced within a Soviet context.

After checking out a collection of essays on Roma judicial customs based on testimonial “efficiencies” that permit anybody present in court to be a witness, she started questioning rigid, subpoenaed versions of testament. Trust in witnesses who have not been vetted and scrutinized by the legal system and organizations of law is counterproductive and unimaginable to westerners, composes Milevska.