Antigone

Recent events continuously in the news brought Antigone to mind. “We’re better than that, aren’t we?” The jury is out on that and well it should be for western culture has maintained many of the same funerary dispositions prevalent at the time of Sophocles. Being one of “them” and having threatened “us” justifies Creon’s decree in the hearts of many.

“In a Critical Inquiry essay (The Idle Idol, or Why Abstract Art Ended Up Looking Like A Chinese Room) Robert Morris stumbles along, page after page considering theoretical explanations for the state of abstract art today (Morris has taken to making outdoor labyrinths). The last two pages are memorable. Here he dispenses with theory (though he knows that what he writes is still theory). He describes what he considers to be the current art scene in the NYC area where he resides (the real reason for the state of abstract art today). My own interpretation of his description would be that the scene is a group ethos without the “idol” of authorship. The individuals contribute to what is taking place within the group, with the entire group participating as well as experiencing (celebrating) the outcome ( the outcome being the participation or rather, the act of participating). Morris describes it as singing. Artists sometimes are curators or show organizers, and curators are considered as artists. There is a fluidity, a constant exchange and interaction with an emphasis on the connectivity of networking. It is curiously analogous to the chorus in ancient Greek tragedy (if you can stretch your imagination enough). It “sings” its art, its message, its ideas, etc. But there is no claim to individual ownership or origin. It is in a communal sense (much as the chorus embodies the community within Greek tragedy) with a heavy emphasis on networking and belonging (which can only be done by actively singing; singing along with everyone else, not counter, questioning or critiquing, but going with the flow). To sing with the chorus is to go with the flow, one way only. The chorus is univocal though it may be polyglot.” (this blog’s December 2009 post entitled Making The Signifier)

Antigone does not sing with the chorus.

Creon’s decree also encompasses memory and memorials. Brief and eerie glimpses of our un-advertised, un-celebrated selves tacitly materialize. Charon is to ferry Sandy Hook Elementary to the nether world to join the Kent State shooting site along with oh so many other tragedies by disappearing, “getting paved over” so that life can go on without the memory being indexed to any concrete material. In many parts of the world the tragedy itself is precisely memorialized by the preservation of just such material — the destruction, the trace, the residue of wrong. Here we want it to disappear, for a return to a normalcy that denies aberration, relegates it to a “them, they or those”, putting it outside the distribution of sense (for the abomination was so sense-less). Ai Wei Wei’s 5,000 names of children buried under earthquake rubble or Maya Lin’s list of names only half buried under the earth defy Creon’s convenient and easy bifurcation of what is to remain of Eteocles and Polyneices.

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