This piece was recently on exhibit at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, as part of the exhibit “From Van Gogh to Kandinsky.” I was struck by how thoroughly modern and contemporary this image feels – it could have been painted yesterday, but was in fact created in 1910 by Ernest Ludwig Kirchner. The curator of the exhibit suggested that the figure is daydreaming, but the notion that comes to my mind in looking at this piece is the notion of boredom. Boredom is a word that comes into its own, with something approximating its present meaning, in the 1840’s. It is a thoroughly modern concept and reality. This painting got me thinking and reading about boredom.
Does boredom express a deeply modern despondency about the lack of meaning in the universe? What is there left to do, after all, when the end result is and will be sheer emptiness and meaninglessness?
Is boredom an expression of the frenetic pace of our particularly modern lives, where we have lost the capacity to sit still for even a moment; in which we have lost the ability to live without distraction and entertainment and titillation?
Are you bored yet?
Would the figure in this painting be any less bored, or any less a representative of our boredom, if she had a smartphone in her hand? Or would that, perhaps, make her the perfect emblem of our boredom? Is our only answer to boredom, more boredom? Continue reading →
Who doesn’t want to be free?
There is something so compelling about the idea of freedom. In our lives, in our culture, and in the wide world there is a desire for freedom – a desire that comes to expression in so many ways. Yes there are sometimes different ideas about what it means to be free – in some cases there are conflicting ideas about what freedom looks like, exactly. But even so, the compelling nature of human freedom is expressed powerfully when we ask that simple question: Who doesn’t want to be free?
This past week we have celebrated Canada Day, so perhaps a way into this subject is by way of the freedoms we enjoy here in Canada. There are the general freedoms we enjoy – freedom to work and to travel and to raise a family. More specifically there are the freedoms that are given to us and outlined for us in the 1982 charter of rights and freedoms: the freedom of conscience and religion (the first of our freedoms); freedom of thought and expression; freedom of peaceful assembly; freedom of association; freedom to move within the country; freedom to leave the country and return.
These freedoms, and others with them, are basic to Canadian culture and basic to many other societies – in many cases these freedoms are written into constitutional frameworks. But then of course there are and have been many places where these basic freedoms haven’t been granted – where certain groups are or have been excluded from sharing in such freedoms. In such contexts the call for freedom becomes particularly compelling. Continue reading →