Tuesday, 7 January 2014

The Importance of Being Seen


It is one thing having the poster with us since 1908, magnificent as it is:


Valdemar Andersen, Children in Need Day, May 12, 1908.
Designmuseum Denmark. The photo was taken by me, which explains the poor quality for which I apologize.

But there is one aspect of it we lack in the aftermath:


Brigades Mona Lisa in Ard El Lwa, October 5,  2013.
Photo courtesy of Brigades Mona Lisa



Brigades Mona Lisa in Ard El Lwa, October 5,  2013.
Photo courtesy of Brigades Mona Lisa
It is said that posters at that time were hung in designated areas in the side streets, which in Copenhagen meant that they were seen from a very short distance. The typical meeting with the poster would not have been across a crowded public room, but a direct meeting between poster and beholder, which makes good sense in that the child is drawn in 1:1.

When you stand in front of it or rather him, you just wish you could lift him out of all that white space onto which is scattered a few crocuses, all too cold for a naked child. The white could hint at snow given the crocuses, but the plane is first and foremost kept in white to underline his nakedness freed from all connotations. The poster was about a charity for children in need, and this particular year the child was not presented as one in rags, but a child full stop.

The nine-month old Ib Andersen was the son of the artist himself, Valdemar Andersen. The acknowledged, but not stigmatized child is the very same approach Brigades Mona Lisa takes to their projects, having continually addressed poverty through the portraits of children: Children in a particular, underprivileged area, photographed and projected upon public walls in their own neighborhood and then painted in bright contrasts of light and shadow in one or two primary colors. Gigantic heads and the heads only, giving each child a face and magnetic presence:


Brigades Mona Lisa in Ard El Lwa, October 5,  2013.
Photo courtesy of Brigades Mona Lisa
Brigades Mona Lisa in Ard El Lwa, October 5,  2013.
Photo courtesy of Brigades Mona Lisa

They are not least given an existence in the eyes from the outside: Poverty is a political issue, a question posed to in order to be solved.

According to Webster's, the word poverty has been around in English since the 12th century. Which is an appalling long time, but not just that - the word itself implies that of "being in need" - in other words the necessity for change. It is a word that calls for action.

Brigades Mona Lisa in Ard El Lwa, October 5,  2013.
Photo courtesy of Brigades Mona Lisa

Brigades Mona Lisa in Ard El Lwa, October 5,  2013.
Photo courtesy of Brigades Mona Lisa. 

Brigades Mona Lisa in Ard El Lwa, October 5,  2013.
Photo courtesy of Brigades Mona Lisa.

The artists take action through their own means, demonstrating the empowering of those of no voice and doing so by giving them majestic proportions which most despots can only envy them. The empowerment works both ways as it is a manifestation too of what art can.


Brigades Mona Lisa in Ard El Lwa, October 5,  2013.
Photo courtesy of Brigades Mona Lisa

The little boy on the poster grew up to be one of those pesky cartoonists himself, who asks critical questions and transform them into drawings for everyone to see. For decades his full page drawings from the Sunday paper could be seen framed in next to every home in Denmark. 

Such is the importance of being seen when a child.

Brigades Mona Lisa in Ard El Lwa, October 5,  2013.
Photo courtesy of Brigades Mona Lisa.


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