May 19, 2010

The Absence of War

Seeing the exhibition of Goya's Disasters of War at Manchester Art Gallery is a dismal experience, strangely encapsulated by one label accompanying one of the etchings - "A group of people gather sadly around a corpse which is hidden from view". The display itself is as professionally shown, in dim light, nicely laid out, as you'd expect. It is strongly supplemented with Jake & Dinos Chapman's model version of the disasters, reinterpreted with nazi torturers. But to get into the gallery you have to go through an anteroom which features children's prints of war themes - as usual, children's art is only of interest to their parents. Interestingly, quotations from the children have also been mounted in vinyl on the wall; the first one seemed to recognise this problematic intervention: 'Katy' comments: "...it makes me uncomfortable as it is so far removed from my experience and I dont know whether it is right to make a comment on it." It is a mercy that the child-centred stuff hasnt bled into the Goya/Chapman space though children are endlessly present in the show because the noise of them shouting and screaming in a nearby 'education' space fills the air. So the small group of adults looking at the prints looked very much like a group of people gathered sadly around a corpse which is hidden from view.

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