artcreche

Posts Tagged ‘credit crunch art’

Close Your Eyes and Hope to Die

In 1, art on January 20, 2010 at 5:46 pm

The Raft of Medusa by Theodore Gericault, 1819

This painting seems melodramatic, and frankly not relevant to life today but as a poor substitute for an action movie. But NOT SO FAST buddy-oh, this painting has some conceptual undertones which can relate to some very contemporary issues.

The subject is a true story. A ship called ‘La Meduse’ crashed off the West coast of Africa, carrying some future French colonists. However, when it became clear that the ship would sink, the officers took the lifeboats and escaped, leaving 150 people to cast out on a raft. With only 15 of 150 people rescued, the French public were shocked by tales of cannibalism and gruesome conditions at sea.

It was the greatest tragedy after Napoleons escapades in Russia.

It also raised a few feathers among the public because it showed how the ‘little people’ got screwed over by the authorities. This post-revolution France who has seen a republic become an empire become a monarchy again. No authority was absolutely certain anymore, but this painting served as a sharp reminder that ancien rĂ©gime hierarchies had not changed much at all.

Now where does that feature today? After a brief skim of the economist, it seems that the little people will be paying for the over-educated rich.

In the painting, there is a crescendo of hope, beginning with a father contemplating his dead son, and slowly rising to a figure standing and waving a flag. But there is no sign of a ship in the horizon. Is this false hope?

Are these people so desperate to survive that they will believe anything this self-appointed leader says?

Perhaps this could be a bit of a joke on Gericault’s part, the little people get screwed over once, only for it to happen again.


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