English House Gazette review of Imaginative Feats

English House Gazette review of <em>Imaginative Feats</em>

Posted: Nov 16 | Author: | Filed under: News & Updates | Tagged: , , , ,

Mara Miller, a Senior at Haverford, writes eloquently here about our exhibition at Cantor Fitzgerald.  We want to elaborate on one of her points.

Ms. Miller writes,

“[Finley + Muse] want audiences to put aside their opinions on the war itself to empathize with the human lives featured in the piece. An image of a boy kissing a cardboard likeness of his military father is touching, not merely ‘patriotic,’ regardless of whether you find that adjective positive or negative, they said.”

We would expand upon this characterization and say that we want to explore the political uses and abuses of empathy without thereby turning against empathy per se, without condemning feeling and shared vulnerability as mere weaknesses.  Opinions about the war, especially if they are abstract and calculative, often seek to avoid empathy precisely by putting the latter to work; appealing to empathy, whether for making war or for making peace, expose our capacity for compassion to manipulation and deadening.  We do find these images touching—but precisely because they are disturbing, because they are partial, filling the visual field with American bodies, American families, and because they court the very losses they seek to guard against.

Mara Miller concludes with something Jeanne said that should now be even more resonant: “All these are usually images and ideas that people look away from,” she said. “But we want people to look at them.”  Looking here means staying with the disturbance, spending time with the way they solicit, amplify, and attenuate our hopes and fears.