08 December 2010

I Won't Be Your Enemy


I'm carving again. This time I'm working on a pattern that will overlay the tan-colored areas of the print, the "Palestinian territories" on my map. I like using patterns to show cultural ties to land. I first did it on the Locusts In Babylon print and then I used patterns again on Vast Unpeopled Lands. I searched online for an Islamic pattern to use and this one stopped me in my tracks when I saw that it includes a 6-pointed star. The inclusion of the star speaks to the ancestral ties of the Jewish and Palestinian people (both tracing their lineage back to Abraham) and it can also represent the Bible-based claims some Jews make to West Bank land.

While I carve, I continue to contemplate peace. Thanks to everyone who joined the conversation in the last post about peace and not eating meat. I found a lot to think about there and I'll probably circle back around to that topic again.

Being an artist, and especially working with a method that could be called "slow art," I do have a lot of time to contemplate. And being a blogger, I receive input from other people that helps my contemplation develop. My blogger/printmaker friend Katka (her relief printing blog is The Blue Chisel) left a comment last month recommending an author named Maxine Kaufman-Lacusta. I Googled her and discovered that Kaufman-Lacusta is a peace activist who has written a book called Refusing to Be Enemies: Palestinian and Israeli Nonviolent Resistance to the Israeli Occupation. The book looks excellent, but it doesn't exist in audio form and I can't read while I carve and print, so I didn't buy it. But I've gotten a lot of mileage out of simply contemplating the title: Refusing to Be Enemies.

Thinking about it, I realized that I've been on the receiving end of someone's refusal to be enemies, and I can attest that it is an utterly disarming tactic. It happened almost 20 years ago when I first started dating my partner Lynn. Between us, Lynn has the sunnier disposition while I can be a little pessimistic and prone to outbursts. One day I was especially irritable and I was trying to pick a fight with her. I kept saying argumentative things and Lynn kept deflecting my comments, letting it all roll off her like water. Finally she simply said "I'm not going to fight with you." So there I was, all wound up with nobody but myself to fight with. The fire that I had been trying to ignite quickly sputtered out.

Not that it's easy to refuse to be enemies. When someone wrongs you, the easiest thing in the world is to become indignant. Righteous anger can be pretty exhilarating. If the confrontation is over more than a trivial matter it can take tremendous effort to restrain oneself. But it can be done. Maybe peace isn't the absence of conflict. Maybe peace is a decision to stop fighting. Or even a decision to stop struggling against fighting. Lynn could have fought with me about fighting, but she didn't even engage with me at that level. She just refused to allow me to turn her into my enemy. We have that power.


Anonymous said...

It's too obvious, political artwork shouldn't be portrayed so literally. It only makes it more forgettable.

Annie B said...

I've heard that many times, Anonymous: Political art shouldn't be literal or obvious. I've heard it so many times that I think of it as an art-world trope.

Good political art walks a very fine line, and perhaps there's not even any such thing as good political art. But I enjoy the challenge.

I think that many artists are afraid to take and stand behind a strong point of view. I think that posting anonymously indicates a fear of standing behind one's point of view as well.

Andy English said...

I recognise the idea of "Slow Art" in my own practice; it allows time for reflection.

As always, I am delighted by the layers of both your thinking and images.

dewatobay said...

to state the obvious:
art, political or not,forgettable, or not, is in the eye/mind of the beholder

Sharri said...

Too obvious? My comment to that is a great big, HUH? Personally, I don't think of your art as political, rather just as art with political content. Two different things and by the time this piece is done it will be many layered both figuratively and literally. There will be many delicious things to look at and to contemplate, and that is all part of good artwork.

Anonymous said...

I posted anonymously because I don't hold a Google Account.

I think obvious political art removes the thought process. If people don't have to think to interpret what they see and get to a conclusion on a certain topic it won't stick in their minds rendering the piece useless.

Oscar said...

1. Dear A. You do not need a "google acc't, to comment using your own name.

2. Too obvious? This interests me a great deal.

For art can certainly be obscure, and the best is always partly obscure. This is my own basis of course, I refer to myself at times as "Oscura"

Art occurs within culture. Culture occurs within community. Therefore art responds to the ebbs and flows of human history (culture and community).

Today alas we seem to live in an age where the obvious is demanded in art precisely because it is so ignored at large. The obvious economic inequities, war, poverty, starvation, national boundary disturbances, etc. etc.

Good work, Annie. A wonderful image and thank you for sharing your thoughts as you carve! I love the insight of "slow art!"


Annie B said...

Hi Oscar,

So nice to hear from you :)
Wishing you peaceful holidays and a wonderful new year to come.


EtchingsPlus said...

I was channel hopping yesterday and came across a programme called Being Erica, daft programme but your blog brought back something a character said. Basically it goes against human nature to talk through problems, the instinct is to fight or run away. I don't fully agree as I have watched one dog immediately submit in the face of aggression from another. So we have 3 natural option, withdraw, aqcuiesce or resist (WAR!) Still means it goes against the grain to talk problems through, until you realise that to resist means to resist your instinct to reach for a bit of 2 x 4, as well as resist against the situation.

Annie B said...

EtchingsPlus, thanks for your comment. I love your W.A.R. acronym! I agree that talking things through could be seen as a strategy of resistance -- a refusal to back down or acquiesce to the situation as it is.