6 June 2016

The Desensitized Image

Performance art piece, Rhythm 0, by Marina Abramovic

Recently, in my Visual Arts class we studied the controversial section-Conceptual art. Accompanying this section are renowned works like those of Damien Hirst and Marina Abromavic. The latter artist's works Rhythm 0 and Rhythm 10 both evoke intense emotion from the viewer. The latter of the two is a performance piece where Abromavic forces an assortment of knives into and around her fingers. I declared that I was desensitized by this performance piece, although context was important.

Marikana Massacre, 2012, Johannesburg South Africa
South Africa's daily papers constantly highlight violent crimes which have quite honestly become a 'norm' in South Africa. The incident between miners and police in 2012, which has since become known as the Marikana Massacre which killed 47 miners/security personnel, in the span of 10 days, is an example of this violence. This incident was not accepted by the public due to the similarity of the famous Apartheid-era Sharpeville Massacre, in Soweto, in 1960, but it was not a shock to the nation either...myself included. Many discussions at dinner no longer mention of the day's latest reported rape statistic, or the latest hijacking and killing or planned murder. We've become desensitized...or so I thought.

Last Friday I found myself in the right place (or wrong place) at the right time; I witnessed a fist fight between two individuals- blood was drawn and battle wounds left behind. I am not desensitized. I broke up the fight with the help of another individual but the imprint was cast in my mind already. Friday passed, Saturday followed and by Sunday this violent act still accompanied my weekend-routine. The images of blood oozing from the one man's pierced cheek with his collar drenched in a dark conglomeration of biconcave erythrocytes, nutrients and salts remained. 

If I could return to that day in my art class, I would change my statement of numbness towards the violent images which flood our every day lives. Instead, I would say that possibly yes, one might be numb to the image, however, one is not numb to the actual event. I have seen countless images of dead or bleeding bodies in my short 17 years yet became traumatized by the sight of physical blood discharging from the man's epidermis in front of me. I guess that makes me human and I guess that makes me not as desensitized as I have invariably thought.

Till next time-

Bibliography in order of appearance:

1.Unknown.2014.Rhythm Series (1973-74). University of Oregon (Online). Accessed: https://blogs.uoregon.edu/marinaabramovic/files/2015/02/rhythm-10-knife-shot-2798n6r.jpg  
Date accessed: 6 June 2016

2. Sapa,2014. No comment from police on 'fall guy' for Marikana shooting. Times Live (Online). Accessed:http://www.timeslive.co.za/local/2014/03/26/no-comment-from-police-on-fall-guy-for-marikana-shooting Date accessed: 6 June 2016 


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