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David London

Mobile Aesthetics & Social Movements: Thinkspace

1 – 3 p.m. Polycentric sessions and screenings, San Francisco Art Institute, Lecture hall and classrooms

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The dissolution of group identities is not a new concept. In fact it can be seen throughout history in rites of passage. The dissolving of groups is a large part of military basic training programs. Soldiers are given matching haircuts and uniforms, then placed in situations where they must work together and depend upon each other. With our exhibit, visitors experienced an emotional transformation that mirrored that of a military recruit — group identities were abandoned and replaced with a new more unifying principle — compassion and common humanity in this case.

As visitors allowed the smaller images to sink in, conscious thought began to take over. At this point and disgust became prevalent and a backlash against the war began or, in a few cases, the exhibit for exposing the truth. One visitor, representative of many others, commented: “I’m disturbed by the pictures. Stop this war! People are being taken away from their families and dying every day”. Another visitor made an important distinction: “The images are disturbing, but must have a meaning. I am just wondering what purpose they have”. While the individual images are disturbing, the comment points to the randomness of war as reflected in the arrangement of the individual images. While some images seem to contradict an apparent theme, they actually provide a more accurate representation of war in its randomness.

The exhibition reflected a dichotomy in nature. Laws of nature are not suspended by human conflict. Natural processes continue regardless of human activity. Wartime is no different than any other time in natural terms. As such, we are able to find flowers in full bloom despite being surrounded by rubble and debris. We will see soda cans lying in the street—remnants of quenching human thirst. Destruction merely becomes just another obstacle for nature to overcome and adapt to—it always does and it always will. Empathy prevails over patriotism when the latter is exposed as a conduit for prevarications, prejudice and propaganda.