We found ourselves outside of our usual lecture space surrounded by an eclectic collection of works. These works ranged from photographs and paintings to sculptures that you have to get up close to tell what they are. I found myself wondering, how does art, especially these pieces, connect to origins?
Two pieces stood out as we discussed them as a class: The Wall of Lamentation XIII by Santiago Montoya and the Colored Vases by Ai Wei Wei. At first glance, these both just seemed like they were simply aesthetically pleasing compilations by their respective artist, but then I realized these two pieces both became the origin of provoking human emotion. These two pieces were each a focal point of feeling. It is strange how art can instantaneously change the thoughts going through your head– one moment you’re wondering what you’re going to have for lunch and then the next something catches your eye and you ask to yourself, or even maybe out loud, ‘what is that?’ or ‘what’s going on here?’.
One feeling that both of these pieces engendered in me was disapproval and discomfort. Once I realized what it was, seeing money being taken out of circulation, being wasted, made me feel uncomfortable. I’ve been raised in a society where I am conditioned to value the possession of money and to make sure I have as much of it as possible, so seeing someone willingly throw it away seemed taboo. It made me think about what would we do if money suddenly became what it really was… just intricately designed pieces of paper? What would we do if money was no longer valued in the same way? If we lived in a world where creativity was valued over exploitation? What is this piece trying to say? Some classmates provided valuable insights of their own about the piece. Comments ranged from perceiving it as a criticism of capitalism and others thought maybe it was highlighting nationalism of different countries and how borders really don’t mean much in the long run if what they’re enclosing is just some people fighting for control of colorful pieces of paper. In this way, art became an origin of questions. This piece was an origin of confusion and deeper thinking, which at first seem too disparate to go hand in hand, but sometimes in art that’s the best kind of thought.
The Ai Wei Wei piece had a more direct discomfort. It took REALLY old pottery and covered it with bright paints, effectively covering up any of the history that they once represented. However, did it actually do these things? Why do we care about old pots? And why should them being painted upset me? I probably would never have seen this pottery in the first place if he hadn’t dumped acrylics on them. Also, what if they had been painted in a similar matter in the first place? I would have been none the wiser. It forced me to step back and evaluate if I value things just because I’ve been told to value them in that way, or if a really truly care about them.