Blog: The essentials of human existence – why we do what we do. S. Flint
(By Sharon Flint, Artes Mundi Learning and Education Leader)
What better way to start our last Artes Mundi 7 blog…..a quote from good old Wikipedia:
“The human condition is “the characteristics, key events, and situations which compose the essentials of human existence, such as birth, growth, emotionality, aspiration, conflict, and mortality.” This is a very broad topic which has been and continues to be pondered and analyzed from many perspectives, including those of religion, philosophy, history, art, literature, anthropology, psychology, and biology.”
Succinct enough really and does provide a starting point for me to reflect on Artes Mundi 7 and my motivations, gains and insights being a new Learning and Education Leader for the organisation. So, to begin…..
To be born, to begin, to give life…..any of us pursuing an artistic life take many forms of reinvention and
rebirth for granted. My new role in Artes Mundi was a departure from my past career in teaching, teacher training and dabbling with creative practice. Although all these facets of me continue, being part of the arts sector was a new venture and I immediately felt privileged to be part of such a successful arts organisation. With that comes great pressure and expectation (from myself mainly), but working with such a dedicated team of LiveGuides and Artes Mundi staff, my rebirth was abrupt and exciting with a whole new language to learn but ultimately worth it!
As an art educator at heart I take huge pleasure from seeing other individuals grow and develop whether it is in their own art practice, their emotional development or in their own confidence to take action in the world. I have overseen the work of the LiveGuides and the LiveGuide Leader throughout the exhibition and have witnessed individual and collective successes every week. In any line of temporary work it is hard to work as a team and build on your strengths in a short period of time, whilst taking account the strengths of others, multiple venues, customer service, varied audiences, last minute bookings and changes. LiveGuides are a unique and essential part of Artes Mundi and this year they have been fantastic – they have taken on an intense role which will lead them confidently onto more exciting adventures in Wales and beyond….good luck and happy growing!
The art work of Artes Mundi 7 has been a stimulus for many discussions, reflections, emotional responses and creative activity. The variety of media, approaches and insights to the world have been reviewed and critiqued by the layman and the professional – but ultimately providing a platform for global issues to be presented in such a varied and exciting way is Artes Mundi’s strength. Yes, the question of “but is it art?” comes up regularly, but even the most emotive visitors valued the message of the work and the need for it to be made public. I was privileged to meet all artists and get under the skin of the way in which they work and the behind the scenes of putting on such a huge exhibition. Admiration and awe are the words that spring to mind when I began to understand the commitment and drive to live with their creative quest.
As an avid art lover and exhibitions’ visitor I would always include contemporary practice in my teaching and take my students to galleries of all types….I did live and teach in London however. The sheer number of education groups visiting the exhibition this year has been phenomenal. Every teacher or leader (from universities to primary schools) has showered praise on the artists and the interpretation work of the LiveGuides. I have been able to work more closely with trainee teachers, teacher focus groups and Arts education networks which have confirmed my own aspirations – for Artes Mundi learning programme to be a key player in art education for schools, colleges, universities and outreach groups in Wales. We hosted our very own Learning Conference which addressed this and the potential for contemporary art to be used as a resource for all teachers implementing the new curriculum proposed by Professor Donaldson.
An inevitable part of humanity, a scary reality for many and a global issue directly addressed by all of the artists this year. From Lamia Joreige’s investigation of conflict and its aftermath in Lebanon; Bedwyr Williams‘ commentary on the encroachment of urbanisation and the super city; Neïl Beloufa’s critique of world governments and power structures; FutureFarmers restorative actions to reverse the damage done by industrial agriculture; Nástio Mosquito’s provocative performance of a fictional dictator to John Akomfrah’s lamentation on the plight of migrants fleeing religious persecution. Does the exhibition provide a resolution? Does it counter assumptions and open your eyes? Does it make you change your mind? In a world where it is too easy to swipe past the news story about famine in Yemen and Somalia and easier to ignore comments made about refugees…these artworks make you face the issue head on and hopefully not ignore it.
And finally, from birth to death….the final still of winner John Akomfrah’s film Auto Da Fé will stay with me forever – a washed up child’s doll. The film is glossy and beautiful but equally haunting and emotive. Can we witness accounts of such persecution and inhumanity and then turn the screen off and forget about it? Over 60 ladies attended the WOW Women’s Film Club event at the Museum this month to watch the film and discuss how it made them feel. Many of them had fled their home countries and felt lucky to be here in Wales. Many felt for the people left behind but strong in the sense of faith people have who face adversity. We are all globally responsible and we are all capable of compassion and love. Let’s face difficulties head on by restoring faith in ourselves…..our humanity.
The Artes Mundi 7 blog was written by a group of exhibition Liveguides and Learning team.