I never really celebrate Thanksgiving, even when I was home in New Jersey. So here, naturally, I kept forgetting it was a holiday, something people actually celebrated. During Thanksgiving weekend, I was in Amsterdam. I thought about turkey for a minute while there, which my mom made one year, but it was not a thought that crossed my mind.
Everyone imagines Amsterdam as this place full of rebellion and art, and although it is, I found Amsterdam the most sobering experience of them all. Amsterdam is a place of freedom, an almost liberation from what we harbor from those around us. Every person I interacted with had a sense of openness I certainly haven’t seen in New York, and definitely less of in Florence.
The highlight of my trip was the Stedelijk Museum, a place of modern and contemporary art. Having seen various museums throughout the U.S. and now Europe, now I think I’m the least unenthused person when it comes to wandering through artworks. Given the amount Florence holds in particular, I find myself questioning whether or not I find art that exciting or beautiful anymore.
The Stedelijk renewed that for me, reenergized my belief that art can be beautiful and important, and perhaps that is why it is created. I have spent so much of my own time mulling over what makes art effective, what makes it good. I go through this process when I take pictures, when I splice together videos of friends. What makes this meaningful? What makes Van Gogh beautiful?
Intention and aesthetics: the half-baked answer I have deduced from my own excessive exposure. The intention behind a work informs its meaning, even if it’s meaning is personal. Like Marina Abramovic, pretentious artist of our time, says: “When an artist tells you something, you believe it.” That idea, as the viewer completely open to your idea, is why art is created. This would make sense, I feel as though those with the most open minds are those whose most understand art the best.
One of the particularly thought-provoking pieces at the Stedelijk was Carlos Motta’s The Crossing, which was the reason I was recommended to go to the Stedelijk in the first place. This multimedia work showcasing, according to the museum’s description, “LHBTQI refugees [who] give gripping accounts of the constant duress caused by homophobia and transphobia in their home countries.” After watching, I found myself disturbed in some ways, having heard some gruesome accounts of people whose bodies were mutilated due to their gender identity and sexuality. It made me feel lucky in a lot of ways, that a country I call my own has made strides toward equality. But still, a long way to go. I suppose I am thankful for those strides, that I live in New York, a mess of cultures that seem to work together majority of the time.
Motta’s showcase of these voices couldn’t be more clear and powerful. The aesthetic was this clean background with this close-up of this person, speaking to you. The person was looking right into the camera, right at you, like you were in this room with them. Each screen was a different person speaking, and only one pair of headphones per bench in front of it. It was a powerful setup, this aesthetic, and the intention and purpose behind remains etched into my mind. Isn’t that the goal of an artist, to leave a mark on their viewer? Motta certainly left this as a memorable piece in my mind, and I wish I could sit and listen to all their stories, until I was sprung to action.
- Ed Hart: sabeena