It has been said that art should disturb the comfortable and comfort the disturbed, and one exhibition in Miami this weekend gave life to this idea during Miami Art Week. Out of the thousands of modern and contemporary artists on display from 277 galleries at the 21st annual Art Basel Miami Beach this exhibit rose above to bring the world’s attention to a moment in time when the world cried out for social justice. I spoke to Argentinian artist Marcelo Brodsky, whose piece turned back the clock to a time when the world took to the streets in at least 40 countries to demand change, in 1968
“The ’68 movement was worldwide. It wasn’t only in Paris. It just was in Paris, but I am picturing 40 different cities of the world where there was social movement and a student movement for different kinds of rights.”
Less than two weeks ago, former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger died at the age of 100, leaving many to reflect on his role in US foreign policy. His death was celebrated by some who decried controversial US involvement with coup d’états in 1973 in Chile and 1976 in Argentina. The coup in Argentina led Marcelo Brodsky to leave his home in exile to study in Barcelona, Spain, where he used art to capture the emotions he felt at the time. He spent the last three years studying photographic records of social movements that emerged in in response to such events, calling his piece 1968: The Fire of Ideas.
“Sexual rights, political rights, a new culture that was emerging in the 60s and it’s very healthy I believe today to remember because we are kind of in a different moment and those ideas are inspiring.”
1968 remains for some a merely nostalgic milestone for protest and social justice movements, but Brodsky says recent years have seen some successful organizing.
“…particularly in what relates to the earth, the planet, the nature, and the rights of women. So yes, they have been somehow recycled.”
And if there is a decline in outward social interest, Brodsky blames the tendency to use technology in a self-centered way.
“And that’s what the 60s show. I mean, many of the ideas were driven and taken forward thanks to the mobilization and the collaboration between different parts of society, students, workers, thinkers, intellectuals, artists, and that has moved society forward. Today, the effect of technology, I believe, is to enhance the ego.”
Brodsky researched social movements from countries all around the world,
“Then I licensed the image from the photographer, the family and institution, and get it in high resolution to put it in black and white, and then I do my painting and my text writing over it.”
He then juxtaposed each of the images along the width of a 60-foot wall to express what he felt was a bright spot in global solidarity.
“And I work with painting, with a crayon, with aquarelle, with text, to manipulate in a way, intervene, transform the photograph. I’m a photographer myself, so I know how to direct the eye of the viewer in a certain direction. And each and every one of these images is a result of thought about the image itself, about what is happening there, about color and about text. It’s a creation of a language because today the younger generations when there is not an image there is no interest. So the only way of transferring our experience of educating, of narrating is with images.”
He praised the Women’s March on Washington and Black Lives Matter for bringing people back to the streets.
“You are not on your own. You are together. You are, there’s some togetherness, some collective feeling that can only be achieved when you are together with other people.”
Brodsky was also been featured in the Tampa Museum of Contemporary Art last year with his collaboration with Peruvian artist Fernando Bryce, Territorios, a similarly styled work that pays tribute to social activists murdered throughout the continent. Art Basel Miami Beach, is one of only four Art Basel fairs in the world, with the others in Hong Kong, Paris and the founding fair in Basel, Switzerland.