in order of appearence
About the Program
Calamity in epic scales, brazen social injustice, cruel consequence of everyday prejudice. These were not invented in the current century, nor in any other recent eras. However, every time we encounter a news item reporting one, we are shocked anew because in the minds of instagram-sharing, youtube-enlightened and facebook-friendly people of the developed nations, such things are not allowed under our Google-smart watchful eyes.
In a book published in the aftermath of 9/11, and Sarajevo not far in the past, Susan Sontag wrote in the context of human cruelty as represented in an art form by way of commenting on Virginia Woolf’s earlier writing on the subject:
“Not to be pained by these pictures, not to recoil from them, not to strive to abolish what causes this havoc, this carnage … would be the reactions of a moral monster… Our failure is one of imagination, of empathy: we have failed to hold this reality in mind.“
In those years, photography has long established itself as the medium that grabs public’s attention and dominates its imagination. One of the points she elaborated on was the quality of viewer’s engagement with their representation that sweeps by like a flood. By then, 24-hour news channels have been around for decades, and just two years down the road, Youtube waiting to explode. But in her view, the ephemeral nature of video streams makes it fall short of acutely affecting our mind as still images do. Anyhow, we are now living in an era in which one may say without blinking his eyes, that any publicity, good or bad, helps one’s cause. Arriving with such a cynical message, photography, video, music and text all often seem to conspire and deprive us of our capability to get deeply outraged. Our engagement level becomes paper-thin, in the form of clicking a like button, or a short glance at the infinitely-looping animated gif.
Recently, I re-read Anne Frank’s diary, hopefully with a mind more mature than for the first encounter with the book as a mandatory grade-school reading. This time, I was struck by the depth of pain induced by a passage that just details her mundane daily chores and anecdotes. Many other readers probably share the same startling experience. For those of us who do not dedicate our lives to an organized resistance to the forces that want to divide, corrupt and destroy, any precious occasion to pause and reflect on the pain of others more personally elevates our mind above the chitchat of daily concerns. An elevated vista, one hopes, will bring clarity, our daily choices more consequential.
Throughout ages, the arts, whether it be a powerful painting such as a Picasso or a Goya, or a piece of music by Bach or Piazzolla, helped people liberate themselves, empathize with others, and overcome personal pains. At the same time, no great artist forgot to create works that inspire and educate in exulting over the joy of life. Many pieces performed this evening embody the breadth of the trajectories that one may encounter during the time of grief, guiding toward the recovery of resilient spirits for righting the wrong, empathy and ultimately celebration of the living.
Classical pieces in the program are as true to this spirit as they can be: Bach and Piazzolla wrote them in reaction to their personal loss; one of the contemporary pieces in the program was written by Jung through her deeply felt feeling for the innocent victims of the recent Sewol Ferry accident in Korea that still pains its people to this day. In other part of the program, I personally feel someone struggling to negotiate emotional turmoil, trying to regain the inner peace. In others, a conversation to console, lighten up, and share the irrepressible joy of life.
Gathering of the diverse range of music and poetry that make up this program was possible thanks to the ethnic and cultural backgrounds of the performers, whose rigorous training spans across genres and styles of music from the classical, both in the Western canon and Korean tradition, and beyond. It is fitting that the later part of the program features superb practitioners of contemporary improvisation since one might say we all have nothing but to improvise when faced with an unexpected crisis in life.
We believe that even timeless masterworks lose their power if faced with a passive and attention-deficient audience who have their index fingers hovering over the mouse button for the next click. We very much appreciate that each of you in the audience paid for the ticket, and showed up. We wish that while you are here, you will commune with the performers with their heart-felt performance and allow yourself a parcel of reverential space/time in which we collectively remember the victims and share the pain of the bereaved at a level deeper than our mass media of choice allow. Where to go from here? It would be up to the decision each individual makes.