Sunday, June 28, 2015

Trauma-less-ness in art

I was in no rush to return home from lunch on Saturday since Shabbat ended early (5:29 pm) and my electronic key prevented me from getting back into my room anyway without staff assistance. So, as I am wont to do, I meandered.
I passed the Australian National Archives, which a huge yellow sign out front proclaiming "Come in. We're open. It's free." I thought "you had me at free" and trotted on in. The lady at the front desk immediately asked me "are you here for the talk?" To which I responded, "I could be, what's the talk about." She: "It's about Trauma and Art and it starts in five minutes." Me: "Sold." She: "It's in the Menses Room down the hall to the left." Me: (silently) "That's gross." (aloud) "Thank you!"
Outside the horrifyingly named but otherwise nondescript Menses Room, a woman stood with a clipboard. She: "Are you here for the talk?" Me: "Why yes I am." She: "Well it's about to start. Did you register in advance?" Me: "I did no such thing. Is that a problem?" She: "We'll find a space for you. Give me your name and head inside." I then proceeded into a room empty of anyone except me, the speaker, and a photographer. Larf.
The talk didn't start for another 20 minutes, and another two dozen people showed up, but the Friday allowed me to read the catalog on their current special exhibition Without Consent an exhibit following the national apology for a series of forced and manipulated adoptions occurring over decades to prevent the shame of single, out-of-wedlock motherhood. (The comparative shame of government sanctioned, church executed cold hearted child abductions was apparently not weighed until years later.) It was a fascinating discussion of a scandalous open secret which went on for decades and whet my appetite for the presentation.
For while the talk was sponsored by the exhibition, instead of being an exploration of the pain and suffering those actions certainly caused, it was a snot nosed punk artiste who by his own admission "had a privileged life and never experienced any sort of trouble whatsoever" using his art to protest the fear instilled by the police state in Australia has become in the age of terrorism and memorializing the "pointless" deaths of Australian soldiers in Afghanistan.
For the record, the only things to fear in Australia are crocodiles and ennui. The government is as benign as a butterfly. Their enduring shame is their treatment of the aborigines, and believe you me, if Native Americans were treated half as well as First Peoples are here, there would be a casino on every street corner, and we'd all live in places called Monnockkesey and Conshahocken. In order for this to be a police state, first they'd need to get some police. All deaths in war are tragic, but the loss of soldiers' lives do not condemn a war anymore than justify it. This kid had no right to invoke their deaths to make political point against policy he disagreed with, if he could even form that argument.

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