In the light of the terrible incident in Paris, with the attack to Charlie Hebdo, I feel compelled to spare a few words, because it’s an event that strongly relates to illustrators and artists one way or another.
First of all I need to clarify that this post has nothing to do with political, religious or social issues. These are matters that anyone can investigate on their own.
I want to talk about the power of satire, but it can’t be done if we don’t understand its language.
Today I’ve seen a quote of an artist who said that art is a “kind of language” and “a form of communication”. I want to specify that art is nothing BUT language and communication. Not a “kind of” or a “form of”.
It speaks symbolically. In truth words themselves are symbols (linguists know this very well), but let’s not go there now or this little post will never end.
The power of symbol has always been immense and very hard to comprehend, because the symbol is the bridge that links the conscious mind to the unconscious, back and forth.
In fact Jacques Lacan would say that the unconscious itself is structured like a language and he’s absolutely right.
So what happens when we make a drawing? We symbolize in a way the triggers conscious and unconscious content at once. The told and the untold.
That’s why art can have strong emotional impact on a viewer, but not all viewers react or feel the same way, because individuals have different upbringing and conditioning.
The symbol always had the most profound effects on personal and collective psyche, if you think about the power of the cross, the swastika or the most unassuming commercial logotypes.
“Modern mass propaganda seeks – in part quite consciously – to restore the old group unity and the mutual projections of the participants, together with all the symptoms of emotional possession that pertain thereto. This it does – as was particularly to be observed in National Socialism – by enlisting the aid of symbols and archetypes.” – Erich Neumann, “The Origins and History of Consciousness”
This is why satirists are such effective provocateurs. With a drawing and a few words they trigger a plethora of emotions and ideas, they throw them in a spinning vortex, and when all that stuff falls back to our feet we look at it again and it’s as if we see it for the very first time.
You can easily understand why they are generally the first ones to be eliminated in despotic societies. Nobody likes the Jester because he’s the only one who can laugh at the king.
Whether you are into Charlie Hebdo’s humor or not is beside the point. The fact is that as an artist (if you are one) you use a specific language. What you do with it is entirely up to you.
It can be good, bad, indifferent, but it’s there.
I just want to invite you to drop the notion that words are “just words” or drawings are “just drawings”. What you do matters and you have full responsibility upon it.
I dare to say that the whole universe is an artwork because the world itself is symbolic, that is the concept we have of it. It’s made of language. The symbol.
Artists shape the world. Which is why it’s a pity to see them exclusively tied to trends, commerce and the politically correct. Do that for a living, but remember you are the modern Bard. You sing of the world that is and will be.
In conclusion, the attack to Charlie Hebdo has been one of the most horrible brutalities because of the nature of the attack itself. It strikes at the spirit of humanity.
Whether you approve of the jester or not, I hope that today we can see together that a world without jesters is a world without artists.
Such a world is lifeless.