Today, I’m thinking and writing again about hope and contemporary art.
The thought which I want to follow up just a little today is that an art which is hopeful must address trauma also. It must look at the past and it must look at violence, and it must seek to be with the pain of it, to do something with that pain.
In 2019, the Prix Pictet photography prize took as its theme ‘hope’. One of the nominated photographers, the Côte d’Ivoire artist, Joanna Choumali, exhibited a series of photographs taken within several weeks of terrorist attacks at the beach resort of Grand-Bassom, Côte d’Ivoire in 2016. Choumali had taken the photographs on her i-phone, had printed them in small format on canvas, and then had embroidered on top of the canvases with bright threads. The embroidered series of photographs ‘ca va aller’ are shown on her website:
I saw the exhibition of these photographs in the V&A Museum in London in 2019. Choumali’s photographs are small in scale but very powerful. You must come close to see them, and the scale gives an intimacy, a direct connection to the artist working on the photographs, purposefully going towards the pain and trauma of what has been left behind after the violent attacks.
Choumali comments about her process that:
” Each stitch was a way to recover, to lie down the emotions, the loneliness, and mixed feelings I felt. As an automatic scripture, the act of adding colorful stitches on the pictures has had a soothing effect on me, like a meditation. Embroidery was an act of hope, as well.”