there was a door.Hear me out: that which you call death
Overhead, noises, branches of the pine shifting.
Then nothing. The weak sun
flickered over the dry surface.
It is terrible to survive
buried in the dark earth.
Then it was over: that which you fear, being
a soul and unable
to speak, ending abruptly, the stiff earth
bending a little. And what I took to be
birds darting in low shrubs.
You who do not remember
passage from the other world
I tell you I could speak again: whatever
returns from oblivion returns
to find a voice:
from the center of my life came
a great fountain, deep blue
shadows on azure sea water.
–Louise Gluck / The Wild Iris
Welcome to the end of 2023. We arrive at the turning of another calendar year to usher in 2024. Custom, or perhaps human nature, tells us to look back and asses the passing year, and enlightened, look forward with new resolutions.
The year 2023 can be summed up in no easy terms. The recurring themes seem extensions of previous years: Climate. Conflict. Migration. Rinse, repeat…. War.
2023 was the year King Charles III is crowned in the UK, the first in seven decades following the death of Queen Elizabeth II. Meanwhile recent polls indicate ordinary Brits are still suffering post Brexit. India surpasses China as the world’s most populous country as tensions grow in the South China Sea. Crypto seems entirely out. NFTs like Crocs-with-socks never really see their full glory. But then again….
Mass shootings in the U.S. remain at their record highs. Around the world, administrations are creating departments for loneliness and trying to find solutions for depopulation and Mental Health like a shy adolescent alone on prom night retreats out of the spotlight in the midst of more global issues. The space race gets a new set of boosters and back on earth, many believe we are at the precipice of something quite daunting. Artificial Intelligence makes waves, something foreboding, now integrated into nearly every device, merging with robotics to devise something beautiful or strange.
In the U.S., the twice impeached former president is now four times indicted on over 90 counts of felony charges. This coming year promises a full calendar of court dates alongside the campaign trail, now seen with the newly appropriated slogan “Live free or die.” In another time this meant something more noble. Here it speaks to the protection of private rights, personal freedoms and privileges. Those who know nothing of greatness seek to claim again what they never had. There is perhaps a graph to be charted: Something comprising Dunning Kruger – abscissa arrogance and ordinate ignorance, with a third and fourth axes charting the martyr complex and the Stockholm syndrome. Indeed, death is not the worst of evils.
The runner up for the Grand Old Party’s nomination declines to state what the U.S. Civil War was about, or has difficulty pronouncing the word “slavery” in light of the remaining confederates still holding their individual freedoms above that of justice and the collective freedom of humans. The second runner up is no better, putting people to sleep during history class, pulling books from library shelves, and giving free bus rides and airplane tickets to migrants to go elsewhere.
War. Azerbaijan seizes Nagorno-Karabakh. Civil war wracks Sudan. The conflict in Ukraine continues, soon to round out two years since Russia’s latest invasion in March of 2022; 20 years if we’re counting from the Maidan Revolution in 2014.
Hamas attacks Israel. Israel hits back with tenfold force and continues. Christmas is canceled in Bethlehem and everyone is scrambling to pick sides, walking back on comments or doubling down in the polarity. The U.S. vetoes the latest U.N. resolution for cease fire, and abstains on the vote for humanitarian aid – not even trying to look good, if only to avoid the greater irony of sending arms to one side, victim aid to the other. And this just in: South Africa files a case at the International Court of Justice alleging Israel’s engagement in genocidal acts.
So much in the name of religion and geo-politics, a different reading of such holy texts may be called. The various deities so often end on the wrong side of history when their self-righteous followers can live alongside occupation, apartheid and ethnic cleansing. But history has a short memory, and one that is highly selective.
War. According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, we have seen over 180 regional conflicts this year, the highest recorded in decades even as we celebrate the 75th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
On other fronts, the climate issues still remain vital. The earth, as if exercising its right to defend itself, is unsparing of occurrences yet another year. The 28th Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC, or more affectionately COP28, somehow miraculously ends on a plausible stance at its 11th hour, finally conceding to mention the need to move away from fossil fuels and narrowly escaping the farce which was to have been, given the very president of the conference was also the head of Abu Dhabi National Oil Company. Say my name….
In 2023 Artpil covered some landmark exhibitions: Sean Scully: The Passenger at Museum of Contemporary Art Zagreb, Deana Lawson at ICA/MoMA and High Museum of Art, Daido Moriyama: A Retrospective at The Photographers’ Gallery, Liam Young: Planetary Redesign at National Gallery of Victoria, Edition Block 1966–2022 featuring Joseph Beuys and Alicja Kwade among others at Neues Museum, Southern Rites / Gillian Laub, organized by ICP / International Center of Photography, shown at Atlanta Contemporary and Eastman Museum, and Dorothea Lange. Tales of Life and Work at Camera.
We covered festivals and art fairs including Paris Photo and Rencontres d’Arles, Latin American Foto Festival, Regenerate: Noorderlicht International Photo Festival, Momentum 12, Edinburgh Art Festival, 76 Locarno Film Festival, Belfast Photo Festival, Seattle International Film Festival, Concéntrico 09, and Aesthetica’s Future Now Symposium.
We covered the winners of the Sony World Photography Awards and World Press Photo, and our own 30 Under 30 Women Photographers at Torino Art Week. We surveyed Black History Month, International Women’s Day, and WAR, and the Declaration of Human Rights.
It would be difficult ending the year without being weighed by all the events which have taken place. Still, Taylor Swift is Time magazine’s person of the year amid record number of journalists killed in Gaza. Rush to get out the lists, we miss the year-end bonuses. Oxford Dictionary’s Word of the Year is “rizz.” Read: charisma. Yes, dictionaries, too, can engage in gaslighting, which, incidentally, was last year’s Word of the Year from Merriam-Webster.
Perhaps Artificial Intelligence was the natural next step, our lives already steeped in some virtual meta universe working in algorithms with imagination stricken. What remains but to consign our thoughts, emotions already deflated? The next tweet or the X post will render extinct the epic poem, and novels will now be tasked to AI, captivating its audiences with its eventual streaming.
So this is how it is. The West, flicking its rear view mirror, pulling out from the rubble, careless and smiling. Take back the rizz, Swifty blasting in the earbuds, driverless, riding with the top down, sunglasses and all teeth.
Perhaps the New Year will usher in a new trend of thoughtfulness and reflection. The next big idea could be this: Killing people is not okay, and ethnic cleansing is actually not on the right side of history. You who do not remember passage from the other world I tell you I could speak again: whatever returns from oblivion returns to find a voice. Imagination. Empathy, kindness and understanding. We can still hope.
Welcome to 2024. Happy New Year.