The mirror of the Indian Ocean, Karen Kilimnik, 2015.
It occurs to me as I move between the rooms of the exhibit that it’s been a long time since I’ve been forced to think about art as something that might be deliberately trying to make you feel something. The swell in the throat is for other mediums, for films and music, or it’s for overblown romantics stuck in the nineteenth century, or it’s for teenage girls with too many feelings.
There was a period of my life when I was a teenage girl with too many feelings and I would spend afternoons sometimes wandering through the airy vaulted rooms of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, getting emotional about paintings and photographs. I believed in the idea of art-as-catharsis, believed that emotion should be dived into and swum around in, and that art was emotion’s ideal arena. Then at a certain point all that emoting about art started to seem embarrassing. Excessive. I absorbed the belief that emotion pollutes critical thinking. That it is unserious.
This piece by Madeleine Watts on Laura Poitras at the Whitney strikes that rare balance between being intellectually important yet highly personal and emotionally rich. It’s a beautiful piece that not only considers what it means to make politically-informed art in the current era, but how politics and messy emotions and feelings can actually be united against all odds.