My Birthday with Steve McQueen
It is not everybody that is keen of contemporary art but – for sure – everyone is capable of appreciating it. All we need is sensitivity and education. The Black British artist Steve McQueen is only a little more than 40 years old but already acclaimed all over the world. So, today was my birthday and I gave myself a promenade in his exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago, and I caught myself again in love with his art.
“Queen and Country” (2007/2009) is a huge and massive wood drawer with about 100 vertical drawer divided in the two sides (front and back). Steve contacted 115 families, and received the permission to use their deceased family member’s picture in this exhibition. They all died during the recent war in Iraq. The drawer is interactive and invites you to open them and see the 160 facsimile stamp with the picture of the man or the woman who died serving their country – UK. Note that each stamp comes with the silhouette of the Queen, the same one that hasn’t approved the real circulation of these stamps but McQueen intention’s is to produce them all, and it is just a matter of time. We all know that one day it will happen but until there his art is unfinished.
Another installation that was striking for me: Static (2009) (check the link!), an unstable video of the aging Liberty Statue… speechless!
MqQueen is also the director of Shame (2011) and Hunger (2012), and they are both about the absence of freedom. The non freedom inside a British prison (Hunger) and the non freedom inside a “free” body (Shame). Both movies are shocking and disturbing. Hunger talks about the IRA volunteers, prisoners that had never received the status of political prisoners. They were so strong about their cause that they found themselves with no choice but to do a hunger strike. The astonishing performance of Michael Fassbender playing Bobby Sands shows us the decay of a human body in an agonizing and slow road to death because the British government under Margaret Thatcher’s command refused to give them back their status of political activists and political prisoners. Only after 10 deaths, the prisoners regained some rights but never the recognition for their political status. On the other hand, the director shows the other side of the bars, and how miserable some men working with those prisoners were felling, and some of them committed suicide. Hunger makes a dialogue with Steve McQueen’s other movie, Shame, where a man totally officially free lives incarcerated in his body and his compulsion for sex.
“There is no such thing as political murder, political bombing, political violence. There is only criminal murder, criminal bombing, and criminal violence. There will be no political status.”
– By Margaret Thatcher