A legendary story involves Picasso receiving a visit from the SS in his Paris studio. The officer points to a reproduction of the artist’s anti-fascist masterpiece Guernica on the wall and asks “Did you do this?” Picasso’s answer, “No, you did!” conveys what those engaged in art or politics intuitively know to be the case: the most powerful political and artistic statements are those which speak directly to us. Reflecting who we are, they are not imagined ex nihilo by the artist, but caused by forces in the world we have created.
All the pieces here were caused by the “low dishonest decade” beginning with our invasion of Iraq and continuing on to the current administration. Some of them reference environmental apocalypse, mass murder, human and civil rights outrages by now so numerous to have become routine. Others excavate the attitudes and prejudices in prior history which made what was to come inevitable.
These are not happy topics, though the patent absurdity of the apologias from official sources and their publicists has created a golden age of political satire. Citizens of Pompeii probably did, the great satirist Tom Lehrer’s claim to the contrary, make plenty of jokes about lava.
And so there a few laugh lines, fake fugues, a pop tune, bebop, a tango, the twist, a nod to the Carters (James, June and Elliott), a snapshot of who we are and who we think we are – an invitation to think and, hopefully, to act.