On October 8, 2017, the anonymous installation artist known only as JR held a picnic at an enormous table constructed on both sides of the border fence that separates the Mexican city of Tecate from Tecate, California. He had painted the table with a pair of eyes, one positioned on either side of the border.
This communal act of radical hospitality came the month after President Donald Trump had provisionally rescinded the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program that had allowed ‘Dreamers’, undocumented migrants who had entered the country as children, a path to US citizenship. As JR was organizing the picnic, Trump had renewed calls for a wall to be built along the Mexican border.
‘Hundreds of guests came from the United States and Mexico to share a meal together,’ wrote JR. ‘People gathered around the eyes of a Dreamer, eating the same food, sharing the same water, enjoying the same music (half of the band on each side). The wall was forgotten for a few moments.’ JR is known for his dramatic, epic-scale works of art, which he has installed in divided communities across the world. More of his work can be seen at jr-art.net.
In order for art to get beyond or behind [repressive] conventions of representation, in order to expose the ideology these conceptions serve, artworks should employ ‘dis-identificatory practices’ that disrupt ‘the dance of ideology,’ and ‘distanciation’ that would ‘liberate the viewer from the state of being captured by illusions of art which encourage passive identification with fictional worlds’.
Mira Schor, ‘Medusa Redux’, quoting Griselda Pollock, Vision and Difference
I was struck by these thoughts on perception and the enlargement of the spirit, which I came across in an article in the journal Arts: The Arts in Religious and Theological Studies (vol. 28, no. 1).
The world about us would be desolate except for the world within us.
Thus says Wallace Stevens in his article ‘Relations between Poetry and Painting’. He goes on to challenge us to embrace
the extension of the mind beyond the range of the mind, the projection of reality beyond reality, … the determination not to be confined, the recapture of excitement and intensity of interest, the enlargement of the spirit at every time, in every way.
Paul Klee, in ‘Creative Credo’, reminds us that:
art does not reproduce the visible; rather, it makes visible.
And Robert Frost, ‘Education by Poetry: A Meditative Monologue’, insists that,
unless you have had your proper poetical education in the metaphor, you are not safe anywhere. Because you are not at ease with figurative values.
I love this artwork by Cory Dugan, which is part of a series of works, all of which explore the notion of hapax legomena, words that only feature once in a certain oeuvre. Dugan’s sources include John Donne’s Holy Sonnets, the works of William Shakespeare, the Hebrew Bible and the Christian New Testament.
I came across this amazing sculpture entitled Homeless Jesus in the April issue of Third Way.
Apparently, it has been installed with a plague featuring words from Matthew 25:40:
Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.
What this picture doesn’t show is that the artist Timothy Schmalz (shown below) left room for one person to sit next to Homeless Jesus.
I have since discovered the following pictures of the sculpture in the rain and snow, which make it even more poignant.
It appears that the sculpture had to be moved from its original location because of objections by residents. One such objection is quoted in Third Way:
My complaint is not about the art-worthiness or the meaning behind the sculpture. It is about people driving into our beautiful, reasonably upscale neighborhood and seeing an ugly homeless person sleeping on a park bench.