My Pain Is Your Pain, Let Me Help You Help Yourself

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Hannah Harkes_My Pain Is Your Pain, Let Me Help You Help Yourself

photopolymer letterpress print with handtinting
v.e. of 5
2015

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This print was made especially for the Di carta /Papermade International Biennale in Schio, Italy (dec 2015-feb 2016) in response to the theme ‘Ethical/Aesthetical’

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Dear Hannah, thank you, all right,
your work is very interesting.
But I have a question: is possible for you explain to me about
the prints in relation to the theme,which is the meaning of the images, please?
The theme is Ethical/esthetical.
The image must be in relation to this topic, it’s very important.
Thank you so much

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Hi
Yes, of course.
The theme of Ethical/esthetical, to me, brings up the conflict in interest that is inescapable when artists deal with ethics. When an artist is heavily concerned with ethical intentions, they ultimately compromise the aesthetic strength of their work. When an artist is concerned in any way with aesthetics, they compromise the effectiveness and sincerity of their ethical action (and in turn, this may or may not harm or patronise the viewer or receiver of their work).
When I began working on my print ‘My Pain Is Your Pain, Let Me Help Me Help Yourself’, I wanted to focus on this conflict of interest, and the difficulties that arise when an artist tries to make two uncomplimentary intentions simultaneously fuel their work, namely: ethically-based intention and aesthetically-based intention. In the print, we see people trying to respond to a problem ā€“ i.e. multiple bloody dismemberments ā€“ which in this context is a representation of artists (or aesthetic agents) trying to respond to a ethical/moral/societal problems. There is a clear lack of focus. Should they help themselves? Should they look at how others are reacting? Should they reflect on and respond to their own personal problem? Should they try to solve other people’s problems? In this lack of focus (or rather multiple focus points), they become impotent. As they are clearly unqualified to fix the problem, we, the viewers, are left to watch a tragically embarrassing, self-serving and unhelpful set of actions unfold. We witness a group of people torn between a heightened self-awareness, and an attempt to help ‘the other’.
To refer to one line I particularly liked in your introduction of the theme, re: art – “Does it give answers or pose questions?”, I can say that my print illustrates the situation in which artists are trying to simultaneously give an answer, and to question themselves.
With this print, I view the theme from the position that the artist is an ineffective answerer in the arena of ethics, as the artist does and must question their own output. The need for this self-awareness, distracting as it is, detracts from the artist’s ability to sincerely address concerns that are of an ethical nature.
((While this is the perspective taken in this print, I might add – in the hope that my position be taken lightly – that it is not the only perspective from which I contemplate the theme. Out of all the possible perspectives, I simply chose to visualise this one for aesthetic reasons. As it happens, I believe that art with a clear connection to ethics is not always disastrous and can sometimes be brilliant. I find it is usually brilliant when it doesn’t take itself too seriously, and when it is ready to accept the flaws in its ability to make ethical advancements.))
I hope this makes things clearer. Please feel free to ask me any more questions.
All the best,
Hannah

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