“I felt so much contradiction”, my interlocutor said. This is the way one of three people, involved in a tour at LUNAR concluded before she left Readytex Art Gallery. When her eyes crossed mine, she seemed amazed by the diverse narratives entangled in a complex conversation; in different categories; in different nuances of the ‘same thing’… Femininity. Community. Hope.
She was moved by this exhibition. Shortly before her conclusion, I asked: “Is there something you would like to share about the painting Belief?” In her answer my interlocutor took me through an inclusive array of hope she felt in encountering LUNAR. Comparing hope in the painting Belief by Shaundell Horton to hope in the painting Untitled by Sunil Puljhun, where I talked about some form of hope, she argued: “Both paintings show the image of people pointing their arms to the sky; however, in Belief it is certain that the visual language expresses something different than in Untitled.” Her eyes stared at the contradiction in these works.
This spell of contradictions continues. In the installation Wi Tru Fesi, translated as Our True Nature, Shaundell’s and Sunil’s metaphorical self-portraits are connected and contradicted. If you look carefully, both are drawing your attention to expression. However, different! In the image of Shaundell’s collage Untitled you are looking at a mother who is being forced into silence, and Sunil’s painting Cry 2 is showing you a screaming child. Further encountering with Wi Tru Fesi brings you to Kurt Nahar his ‘self-portrait’ that is celebrating spirits of the Earth. “It requires to show respect, since I am aware not to touch the clay bricks installed in this work, due to the sacredness of the yellow candle between the bricks”, my interlocutor beliefs. This metaphor in Wi Tru Fesi shows a relation between the Sun and the Earth, in which your attention probably is moving constantly from the neon triangles on the wall, that are installed as sun rays as crown holding the scaredness of this crossroad spirit, to the yellow candle on the floor.
In front of the installation Tree of Life by Shaundell, my interlocutor reflects. She is aware how much Shaundell and Kurt allow themselves to dream but at the same time stand firm in the earth. Slowly my eyes move to the installation Letters from Mexico, built with paintings by the late Erwin de Vries, with a poem for his 75th birthday by Kurt and a blank carbon for spectators and their imagination to hope. My mind concludes: “Had the mysterious gaze of the portrait Sri that baptized visitors of LUNAR, done its work properly?”
This exhibition is an ecology of legacies. It brings living and deceased artists together and invites spectators to join their community. In this sense, LUNAR not only shows how community is essential. In the context of this manifestation, I think of community as a way that transcends power, to find strength.
Can we look at art beyond philosophy? Or could we place art beyond the borders of religion? If I think of art beyond the restrictions of both philosophy and religion, I feel a relieve. If I assume that religion is the search for meaningful connections -in which a higher power, supreme being or god is usually central- then I think that art transcends this project. I think that art within the context of community brings a special kind of understanding to the table, that we don’t get in other ways. Of course, art holds many other purposes in space and time such as: for pleasure to entertain us, to express our feelings and emotions, and to capture beauty. However, “beauty as the essence of art is discussible”, according to the documentary What is Philosophy of Art? by Robert Kuhn (New York, 1944). In this documentary the argument is made that if we look for beauty in the world (in nature and culture), we don’t have to have the arts. But at the heart of art, we still find beauty. However, art tells us stories and the interest and structure of a story goes beyond beauty. In general, What is Philosophy of Art? questions whether philosophers of art must broaden their perspectives and how? In this reflective space, I am instantly drawn to art as a communal practice.
Within community, works of art serve us in different ways. According to Kuhn’s documentary, some categories of this service are: art and actions (related to ways we engage with the arts), art and rethought (or memorial art in which we honor memories to keep them alive), social protest art, and art for cognitive significance. When I reflect on LUNAR, I am especially drawn to the latter relationship.
Should community be the essence of femininity? Or should our structures in community be a little more feminine? I curated LUNAR in these pursuits, in which I aim for a conversation about the essence of structures in society. In this dialogue, I hoped for spectators to enter a spiritual discourse. My knowledge of spirituality, however intimate, is a public space for us to encounter each other; into soft confrontation; into the practice of love.
Whether spirituality relates to connection with god or any personal experience of the Self, I believe that in this art manifestation spirituality transcends individuality. Staging LUNAR as a metaphor for femininity has taught me that the female energy flows through everything: from narratives depicting religious stories, to who I am as a person. In this sense, I installed Love = Love. Both versions, volume 1 and volume 2, show diversity of the experience of love, sexuality, and eroticism. Volume 2 is installed using a ceramic depiction of a penis in a vagina by Erwin de Vries, the work Fragile Pussy by Kurt, and a butt of a cigar. Volume 1 is installed with a painting by the late Lilian Abegg and one by her diseased husband Erwin; one depicting a man with a bird in front of a background in which I see a rainbow, the other showing what reminds me of the masculine phallus.
Finally at the navel of LUNAR, I am reminded of the phallus as its aspect. Does Obatalá and Éndhang, the joint installation by Kurt Nahar and Sri Irodikromo reminds us that all events are inclusive? The way I personally look at events appearing whithin and around me, whether these events are living beings as objects to nature or non-living subjects of culture, I think that all events consist of female and male aspects.
On the first floor spectators are left on their own. But on the ground floor, who wants is being guided through a curated tour in which diversity and inclusion are expressed through different installations. At the same time, hope, community and femininity are felt as vibrations that create the many contradictions LUNAR brings to spectators.