Thoughts on democracy

April 19, 2007

by Margareta Kern, contemporary artist, in reply to David Levi Strauss’ article

Democracy is one of those terms that makes me feel warm at heart, giving me a sense that we have found the solution for the way we organise and govern our societies. It is a positive term, filled with a sense of hope and strength; a democratic society is one which is fair, in which each citizen can voice hos or her opinion and has a right to cast a vote which can influence directly the politics and economics of her/his country. So the more I examine my fantasies relating to what the term ‘democracy’ represents the more utopian it seems to me. Is democracy an utopian term?

Having just spent one month travelling through Bosnia and Herzegovina, the thought on the meaning of ‘democracy’ has grown louder and louder with each day spent there. The sense of isolation felt there is further complicated when viewed in relation to the broadband Internet access (only urban areas have good and affordable Internet providers). A sense of separateness and division seems to be strong as ever despite the greater accessibility to the different tools of communication and information.

To say that there is a greater accessibility and possibly self-control of images and text since the advent of Internet and digital image is probably true, but to add the term democracy to that process of greater access would seem like giving an incredible amount of credit to what in the end are pixels. Painting, which in the end is just acrylic or oil, has the power to move us beyond our ability to explain why; in the same way images have the ability to move us even if they are just a flicker on our screen. But they will only move us if we allow them to, and for that we will need to find a way, as David Levi-Strauss wrote, to “slow images down to regain our liberty (and our distance)”. However in order to slow them down, we may need to slow down first.

Margareta Kern is an interdisciplinary artist based in London. Her new project is Clothes for Death a-n BLOG.

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