We had practically the whole of Site Santa Fe to ourselves through which to wander, and to pout and preen over the pieces of art—like out-of-town moguls that pour in during Indian Market. Attention-wise, we were a little bit more invested than usual, because we were being indulged with a personal escort around Site: Joanne Lefrak, the very amiable director of Education and Outreach.
I noticed that there was definitely a quizzical vibe, which I would liken to that of the “golden-ticket” crowd and their escorts upon entrance to the main room of the chocolate factory. Wonderment tinged with willing skepticism at how far sugar and art can be taken.
Lefrak supplied the narratives for the exhibits that make up Agitated Histories. One of the first exhibits we saw was in a very large and echoing space, in a separate well lit inner-chamber: “Divine Violence.” by Daniel Joseph Martinez.
This installment was an amalgamation of many elements. As I entered this exhibit, I was surrounded by a lull that was eventually broken by bursts of odd noises from another part of the gallery. At first glance there were rectangular panels mounted on the white walls from the bottom all the way to the top.
There was a sense of quietude and wonder that was not un-like being for the first time inside an unfamiliar church, mosque, or temple. Everyone chose a different point of focus around the room and we each tried to make sense of it all. The English text on the panels was rendered in a beautifully hand-written font.
Even though I was able to read the text, I was still baffled. Then, familiar words like Al-Qaeda, The Taliban, Klu Klux Klan and American Nazi Party crushed the sanctity and sereneness that only seconds before floated in the space. Lefrak then told us that these are the names of movements in which violence is used to further their cause in the 20th and 21st century.
I pondered over the names of groups such as the King Mob, The Weathermen and La Cosa Nostra. The Irish Republican Army and the KGB took me back in time. Then I saw in the corner: The American Indian Movement. I asked myself why I was shocked to see this panel. Then I asked, do groups like these own up to their heinous methods and place in history?
Then I started to think of the kinds of violence there are in this world. I considered the modes and tactics of these movements that were calculatedly cruel, intentional and all out hostile, the ways in which mankind has sought to use sheer brute force as way of moving supposedly “forward” those who take pleasure in the lack of unadulterated self control and murder.
Then what made my head spin was the number of human lives that are laid waste when considering these beautifully shimmering gold-colored panels that shined like destruction. Suddenly, this space was altered into a masoleum of hate. After all, it was hard to seperate the idea from the act. It became obvious how forceful acts of degradation willingly perpetrated against a person, groups of people or even entire masses have escalated into new levels of horror in this day and age. Should it matter if those acts might have been reactionary violence? That was the reason it was hard for me to see the panels with American Indian Movement and Vietnam People’s Army. But violence is violence..or is it? Even PETA and Greenpeace have panels of their own.
All politics aside (I knew it was all much more complicated), what it all boiled down to was the disregard for human life and inability to try to foster peace. How dare we try to use violence in the name of religion. These were the emotions that this wonderful piece provoked in me. Then before I readied myself to leave the room, I thought, ‘what if this was a masoleum for all these groups that have all come to pass?’
It became an enshrimement, and each panel represented a tomb for that entity and brand of violence…dead. If it was a morgue, each panel could be pulled out to identify and view the very cadaver of insolence and hostility…dead. It became quiet again, and naturally there was a need for peace that was stronger than ever. It was resounding and genuine…Peace!