“We live in terror because persuasion is no longer possible; because man has been wholly submerged in history; because he can no longer tap that part of his nature, because we live in a world of abstractions, of bureaus and machines, of absolute ideas and crude messianisim. We suffocate among people who think they are absolutely right, whether in their machines or in their ideas. And for all who can live only in an atmosphere of human dialogue and sociability, this silence is the end of the world,” reads English, French, German and Spanish text at the bottom of Albert Camus’ enormous canvas. Slightly taken aback, you might wonder just what you’ve stumbled upon. After all, since when has such a strongly rooted political message been displayed so prominently on the National Mall?
Three years ago in Jerusalem, The Museum on the Seam released its latest exhibit into the world. “Coexistence,” a giant, international traveling outdoor art exhibition, has reached the American leg of its world-wide journey. Established through the support of the Holtzbrinck family of Germany, artists from around the world were invited to pick a to comment on intolerance and create their own message of coexistence.
Anyone who heads down to the Capitol Reflecting Pool can view responses to the violence and conflicts that plague our world. The 50 large artworks are displayed as artfully arranged billboards, accompanied by a text panel at the bottom quoting luminaries such as Sigmund Freud and Gandhi, commenting on living together in a global village. No two works are even somewhat alike, with mediums ranging from still photography to printing and painting. Using the universal language of art, pieces mounted outdoors in a meaningful location can impact a broad spectrum of people.
As you leave the installation, the Capitol building at your back, be sure to turn one last time and catch the last 9′ x 15′ board that watches you silently depart. If you take nothing else from the exhibit, at least take Heinmot Tooyalaket’s departing words – “It does not require many words to speak the truth.”
“Coexistence” will be on display at the Capital Reflecting Pool (on 3rd St. NW at the end of the Mall) Sept. 22 to Oct. 4.