Can Art be disturbing

By PICASSO, la exposición del Reina-Prado. Guernica is in the collection of Museo Reina Sofia, Madrid.Source page: http://www.picassotradicionyvanguardia.com/08R.php (archive.org), Fair use, Link

How could any art be disturbing? Art is often and as known to the most is beautiful and mesmerizing. But yes, at the same time they can be disturbing as well. We have significant pieces of art with gruesome stories related to them. Whether it be 'The crying child' by Bruno Amadio, which was infamously claimed to be spotted undamaged at several burnt places, or be the photograph of ' Starving child and the vulture' by Kevin Carter which catered harsh criticism.

Here what we are trying to establish is the idea not about the haunted or controversial artworks but about the artistic creations which sprouted out an entire political stir and proved to be disturbing the mighty 'status quo' and the clumsy ‘might is right’ attitude.

In today’s world, when the advent of ‘protectionism’ and ‘xenophobia’ is evident in the global politics again, a major challenge to humanity is the inhumane nature of humans. War and terrorism are claiming lives. Hundreds of thousands of people are homeless amidst war and hunger. But most of the world is untouched because they may not be directly influenced or affected and this is where art makes a difference. Art conveys the sorrow and plight of humans at some or the other part of earth.

“If my art has nothing to do with people’s pain and sorrow, what is ‘art’ for?”

                                            -Ai Weiwei, Chinese Artist

 With the ability to infect, art spreads idea of the artist without uttering a word. It may be as disturbing as the real hardships of the people of some drought hit area or a city devastated by a war. There have been some pieces of art in history as well as in the recent past that happen to cast a lasting impression.

  1. Guernica (1937) by Pablo Picasso: It’s a commemoration of the atrocities of war caused by the bombing of a small country village in Spain by a Nazi Germany and fascist Italian forces at the time of Spanish civil war. Guernica is certainly Picasso’s most powerful political statement painted, which had a reaction over the proponents of the Iraq war in 2003 at UN Security Council, as they were reportedly so scared that they ordered a tapestry of Guernica over there to be covered up.
  2. Third of May(1808) by Francisco Goya: it depicts moments in the Spanish history. It shows the scars of war and commemorate the political martyrdom of the Spanish, resisting Napolean’s army. Apart from being a celebratory, heroic military painting, ‘Third of May’ is more modern idiom which continues to dominate our vision of war.
  3.  Moreover, in recent times the image of a man burying his son, who had died like thousand others in the ill-famed Bhopal Gas tragedy, by photo journalist Pablo Bartholomew in December 1984 helps to understand and estimate the plunder of death caused by the disaster.
  4. The picture of a toddler named Aylan Kurdi, washed away in sea, photographed by Turkish journalist photographer Nilufer Damir, spread like fire in woods on the social media. The picture was disturbing like anything and had an electrifying influence over the world. With that photo, the world came across the trauma and plight of the Syrian refugees. Eventually, the debates for peace and normalcy surrounded the world politics instantly and went on to the next level.

These were some intense examples of the impact that art may cause apart from only soothing and relaxing one’s mind by flowers and landscape paintings. Art, with its inception have been serving such humane causes.

Engaging in a one-way dialogue with a piece of art defies the entire endeavor of the artist to spark the sense of inspiration and obligation for the fellow human beings. Art is not merely meant to be enjoyed and left over but the imprints must also be in the mind and soul not only on the canvas.


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