WE THE PEOPLE: Seeing Our Resistance
JUNE 21, 2003
Opening Night Statement for
WE THE PEOPLE: Seeing Our Resistance
a visual dialogue of current peace movements
by curator Margaret “Saraswati” Kruszewska
Many of you have asked me why create such an exhibit, especially now when, supposedly, the war is over and the peace movement has lost. I can tell you in one word: anger (a strong word to invoke in a yoga studio but as necessary as fire sometimes). The anger of remaining invisible, dismissed and therefore historically, non-existent.
For those you who have not heard the inside story of how this idea ignited for me I share it with you tonight. It was after a disturbing conversation with an educated, politically astute young woman from Eastern Europe now living and working here in Eagle Rock. She accused “all YOU American people” of not doing anything! She screamed these words at me and I must admit it took me a minute to even realize that she meant ME. Since the passing of the Patriot Act every time I fill out a piece of paper with “birth place info: Poland” I also have to show my Naturalized Certificate of Citizenship. Seems to be working. I am reminded that I’m not REALLY an American so the government can always question my“patriotism.”
But I became grateful to her and to that angry fire that ignited me cause I was so steamed that day from her thinking we’re not doing anything and, being born under the Aries planetary influences I immediately had to do something — and fast. Knowing that most of my friends, neighbors and students were in fact doing plenty:sacrificing their week-ends to join local marches or photographing them, getting on buses (mind you Los Angelenos getting on buses!)to join larger groups in San Francisco or D.C., hanging peace flags from their cars, organizing concerts, making art and signs, teaching their children what these gatherings mean, writing letters, signing petitions, using our group email lists indiscriminately, losing friends over using our group e-mail lists! Reading, wondering, talking with our co-workers, family members; sometimes at the cost of being ejected but insisting on raising the difficult question of whether or not we should even be there. We were doing plenty, and we knew it but seems like many others, including most of Europe as shown by this young woman’s utterances (and she lived 15 minutes from 2 of the largest demonstrations in Southern California!) though we were passive, apathetic and only concerned with our SUVs! Despite all our international sophistication, our high-tech web-driven info global state we see and hear only what CNN reports. And locally,the same. Fox News hardly noticed, of course. LA Times never bothered getting accurate head counts of the demonstrations. LA Weekly had lots of opinions but very little documentation of the rallies.
I do not believe there is one true story of these times, I do believe in recording as many of the stories as we can. In my current doctoral studies I try to glean information from visual artifacts especially during times when the written word has failed us. Or, even when information has been used against us historically as happened with many women artists, healers and spiritual practitioners. To see another time and place gives us hope, vision and courage, other possibilities of living our lives. And so to allow this time and place to disappear would be a lie carried into the future. And in our post-modern analysis of how the artist does change the environment of the subject she is witnessing, know that you changed it by seeing it for us.
Whether or not our efforts were effective — we’ll see. Asa spiritual activist I also believe that these energies generated their own purposes and so — we’ll see. As long as we CAN see and hear the stories. So tell the stories, bring us the images,be there, in all your ambivalence or fervor. Document, archive and create art like our lives depended on it. Because it will disappear and one day soon your child or your cousin from abroad or some student of peace movements at the turn of the century will say, “but they didn’t do anything there.”
We find ourselves living in interesting times. And whether or not you intentionally set out to document these times as local photographer Terry Wong has done with hundreds of rolls of film just from the LA demonstrations. Or found yourself accidentally in the middle of a rally as Carl Flanigan describes from New York City. Whether your vision brought to this black and white paper the emotional fibers of war on the human psyche as Hamidah Glasgow has so evocatively rendered in her collaboration with the incredible but oh performance group Corpus Delicti. Or the thoughtfully constructed studies on the loaded words of “war” and “peace” as our Fairfax high school students have articulated being the young men and women called to this battle. And if you, like myself, looked around and wondered if this was indeed just a “hippie white cause” and then saw what Charles “Bomani” Watson has focused on. Or were just filled with wonder and amusement at the highly imaginative, sometimes hilarious and irreverent ways we talked the talk (look at some of these home made placards, graffiti,graphics!), there is beyond sheer numbers as documented from D.C.by Rich Dutchman and from San Francisco by Friedericke Heidger –ENERGY! And beyond documenting, there is a huge collection of voices in here today, questioning, sometimes romanticizing but constantly continuing a dialogue, amongst ourselves, with the media and within ourselves. At any moment we did have a choice to witness, intervene or participate. This is a testament to that choice. With gratitude from myself and co-curator Elizabeth Benson.
June 21, 2003
Yoginis Yogic Arts Studio
Los Angeles, California