26 January 2011

Thought on the Role of Art

(George Ştefănescu "Singurătate", courtesy of Wikipedia)

The book I am currently reading is an anthology of short stories from CEE called "Description of a Struggle: The Contemporary Book of Contemporary Eastern European Writing" edited by Michael March. There is a lovely short story by the Romanian writer Ana Blandiana that fit in very well with Art Week:

"The Open Window"
by Ana Blandiana

Back in those days, whenever artists were arrested, they were allowed to take their paints and brushes with them into the jail. Thus, on entering the dark cell at the top of the tower, the first thought that struck the hero of this story was to have a window painted on one of the walls. He got down to work and painted an open window through which a dazzling blue sky could be seen. Thus his cell became much brighter.

The following morning, entering with bread and water, the jailer had to shut his eyes against the blinding light pouring in through the painted window.

'What's going on in here?' he yelled and rushed to shut the window, only to knock himself against the wall.

'I have opened a window,' the artists answered, undisturbed. 'It was too dark in here.'

'Heh, heh, heh,' the jailer laughed, feeling humiliated because he had allowed himself to be hoodwinked. Then he started mocking the artist spitefully: 'You have opened a window…You have painted a window, you fool! This is not a real window, it is only yourself imagining it is a window.'

The artist went on, undisturbed: 'I wanted to make light in the cell and I did so. Through my window the sky can be seen; you yourself, coming in, had to close your eyes because of the light.'

This time, the jailer was really furious: 'Are you trying to bamboozle me or what? This tower has no windows whatsoever. Whoever enters here will never live to see the light of day again!'

'And yet, daylight in pouring into my cell through the open window,' the artist said.

'Oh yes?' the jailer mocked him. 'Then why don't you escape? That way, you could persuade me your window's for real.'

The artist studied him for a while, then took a few steps to the wall and jumped out of the window.

'Stop!' The jailer rushed after him, frantically trying to check him, but again all he did was bang his head against the wall. 'Alert! He's escaped!' he started to yell, as the artist's body could be heard hurtling down through the air, smashing itself against the slates at the foot of the tower.

I leave the interpretation for the readers today. It's worth a thought.

(Adrien Ghenie, "Pie Fight Study 2")