Divine Violence at Site Santa Fe

Divine Violence by Daniel Joseph Martinez. Photo: Eric Swanson

We had practically the whole of Site Santa  Fe to ourselves through which to wander, and to pout and preen over the pieces of art””like out-of-town moguls that pour in  during Indian Market.  Attention-wise, we were a little bit more  invested  than usual, because we  were being  indulged  with  a  personal escort around  Site: Joanne Lefrak, the very amiable director of Education and Outreach.

I noticed that  there was definitely a quizzical vibe, which I would liken to that of the “golden-ticket” crowd and their escorts upon entrance to the main room of the chocolate factory.  Wonderment tinged with willing skepticism at how far sugar and art can be taken.

Lefrak supplied the narratives for the exhibits that make up Agitated Histories.  One of the first exhibits we saw was in a very  large and echoing space, in a separate well lit  inner-chamber: “Divine  Violence.” by Daniel Joseph Martinez.

This installment was an amalgamation of many elements. As  I entered this exhibit, I was  surrounded by a lull that was eventually broken by bursts of odd noises  from another part of the gallery. At first glance there  were rectangular  panels mounted on the white  walls from the bottom all the way to the top.

There was a sense of quietude and wonder  that  was not un-like  being for the first time inside an unfamiliar church,  mosque, or temple.  Everyone chose a different point of focus around the room and we each  tried to make sense of it all.  The English text on the panels  was rendered in a beautifully  hand-written font.

Divine Violence by Daniel Joseph Martinez prompts question about the nature of violence. Photo: Eric Swanson

Even though  I  was able to read the text, I  was still baffled. Then, familiar words like Al-Qaeda, The  Taliban, Klu Klux Klan and American Nazi Party  crushed the sanctity  and sereneness that  only seconds before floated in the space. Lefrak then told us that these are the names of movements in which violence is used to further their cause in the 20th and 21st century.

I pondered over the names of groups such as the King Mob, The Weathermen and La Cosa Nostra. The Irish Republican Army and the KGB took  me back in time. Then I saw in the corner: The American Indian Movement.  I asked myself why I was shocked to see this panel.  Then  I asked, do groups like these own up to their heinous  methods and  place in history?

Then I started to think of the kinds of violence there  are in this world. I considered the modes and tactics of these  movements  that were calculatedly cruel, intentional  and all out hostile,  the ways in which mankind has sought to use sheer  brute force  as way of moving supposedly “forward” those who take pleasure in the lack of unadulterated self control and murder.

Then what made my head spin was the number of human lives that are laid waste when considering  these  beautifully shimmering gold-colored panels  that shined like destruction.  Suddenly, this space was altered into a  masoleum of hate.  After all,  it was hard to seperate the  idea from the act. It became obvious  how forceful  acts of degradation willingly perpetrated against a person,  groups  of people or even entire  masses have  escalated into new  levels of horror in this day and age.  Should it matter  if those acts might have been reactionary  violence? That was the reason it was  hard for me to see the panels with American Indian Movement and Vietnam People’s Army. But violence is violence..or is it?  Even  PETA and Greenpeace  have panels of their own.

All politics aside (I knew it was all much more complicated), what it all boiled down to was the disregard for human life and inability to try to foster peace. How dare we try to use violence in the name of religion. These were the emotions that  this  wonderful  piece provoked in me. Then  before I readied myself  to leave the room, I thought, ‘what if this was a masoleum for  all these groups that have all come to pass?’

It became  an enshrimement,  and  each panel represented  a tomb for  that entity and brand of violence…dead. If it was a morgue, each panel could be pulled out to  identify and view the very cadaver of insolence and hostility…dead. It became quiet again, and naturally there was a need for peace that was stronger than ever.  It  was resounding and  genuine…Peace!


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