Flash Points

New Flash Points Topic: Compassion

Carrie Mae Weems. "From Here I Saw What Happened and I Cried," 1995. Selection from set of 30 C-prints with sandblasted text on glass, dimensions variable. © Carrie Mae Weems. Courtesy the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.

Carrie Mae Weems. "From Here I Saw What Happened and I Cried," 1995. Selection from set of 30 C-prints with sandblasted text on glass, dimensions variable. © Carrie Mae Weems. Courtesy the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.

In celebration of the fifth season of Art:21—Art in the Twenty-First Century, premiering this fall on PBS, we are accelerating the Flash Points format, tying the next round of topics to our upcoming four thematic episodes: Compassion, Fantasy, Transformation, and Systems.

We kick off the next few weeks with the question of compassion. In true Flash Points style, we boil the notion down to a simple, provocative, and open-ended question:

Do artists have a social responsibility? To whom? To what?

Additional questions on this topic might include:

  • Might a work of art move us to temper our more destructive impulses?
  • In what ways do artists’ feelings of empathy contribute to work that addresses the broader human condition?
  • How do artists tackle difficult subjects to expose tragic or forgotten histories, pernicious stereotypes, and apathy?

Throughout this time, we’ll publish in-depth posts about the artists profiled in the forthcoming Compassion episode — William Kentridge, Doris Salcedo, and Carrie Mae Weems — as well as feature musings from our roster of guest writers, extending the theme beyond the series to real world correlations, questions, and perhaps even discomforts.

Help us start the conversation by leaving a comment below. Feel free to note other artists whose work addresses the theme of compassion — we’d love to collectively envision a broader landscape of how it is considered in contemporary art practice. And save the date for the Compassion episode which debuts nationwide October 7, 2009 on PBS!

(Please note, too, that our most recent topic of What is the value of art? comes to a close this Friday, so there are still a few posts we’ll be publishing in conjunction with this as well.)

Doris Salcedo, "Unland the orpan’s tunic," detail, 1997. Wood, cloth, hair and glue, 31½ x 96½ x 38½ inches. Collection of Fundación “la Caixa.“ Barcelona. Courtesy the artist Alexander & Bonin Gallery, New York.

Doris Salcedo, "Unland the orpan’s tunic," detail, 1997. Wood, cloth, hair and glue, 31½ x 96½ x 38½ inches. Collection of Fundación “la Caixa.“ Barcelona. Courtesy the artist Alexander & Bonin Gallery, New York.

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William Kentridge, From “9 Drawings for Projection (1989–2003): Felix in Exile,” 1994. Production stills, dimensions variable. Courtesy the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery, New York & Paris.

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Art21 Director of Special Projects
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