The Standing March: The Power of Memory and Art

epa05048047 An artwork by French artist JR and US filmmaker Darren Aronofsky is projected onto the French National assembly (Parliament) on the eve of the COP21 climate conference in Paris, France, 29 November 2015. The 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) due to be held in Paris from 30 November to 11 December will proceed as planned, despite the terrorist attacks of 13 November.  EPA/YOAN VALAT

In Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel, An Artist of the Floating World, artist Masuji Ono narrates the story, reminiscing on the world he used to know before the war. Mr. Ono recalls his past as an artist, even though I believe a person never truly stops being an artist. Although he may have stopped creating art with his hands, his mind continually illustrates the past in an attempt to recapture the good times. And yet, this always includes some melancholy, as Mr. Ono is a bit of a realist. He says, “must say I find it hard to understand how any man who values his self-respect would wish for long to avoid responsibility for his past deeds; it may not always be an easy thing, but there is certainly a satisfaction and dignity to be gained in coming to terms with mistakes one has made in the course of one’s life” (124). Mr. Ono is in constant tension with himself. His loss of identity creates a nervous condition, as he is unwilling to fully face who he was before the war and who he is now after the war has ended. He leaves the reader with some good advice though: “There is surely no shame in mistakes made in the best of faith. It is surely a thing far more shameful to be unable or unwilling to acknowledge them” (125). These words reflect his own greatest struggles, and if he were to embrace his inherently artistic self again, I am sure his art would reflect the same.

 

Art can serve so many purposes: to reclaim one’s humanity, to offer therapeutic benefits, to evoke certain unmistakable emotions, to recall past times, and more. However, all art communicates, or tells a story. The Standing March (the image I chose to present) was a joined collaboration created by French artist JR and American filmmaker Darren Aronofsky. It presents over 500 faces of people which were projected onto the façade of the French National Assembly structure throughout the 2015 UN Climate Change Conference that took place in November. The artists hoped that this “representation of humanity” send a message to the 25,000 world leaders who gathered in Paris to discuss a plan to limit the increase of global temperature. JR and Aronofsky hoped it would “remind leaders that the world is watching.”

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