Diego Rivera’s murals rethought

On the occasion of the US Social Forum, taken place in Detroit in the summer 2010, political commentator Thomas Ponniah
 wrote a story on the famous Rivera mural’s. He introduced the beautiful works as follows: “The murals illustrate the dignity of the worker in relation to the history of technology - from its origins in agriculture to the factory floor of a Ford auto plant. The most intriguing aspect of the murals lies hidden within the outline of a gigantic stamping press on the South Wall: the press intimates a resemblance to the Aztec deity Coatlicue - the goddess of creation and destruction. Through the image Rivera suggests that in the 1930s the deity revealed herself, in all of her contradictions, as technology. The murals present us with the latter’s dual nature - factories and smokestacks, passenger planes and war planes, vaccines and poison gas - implying that technical progress always offers us the choice between self-immolation or an increase in human flourishing.”

After some alinea’s on the events taking place at the USSF [slogan: Another world is possible. Another USA is necessary] he sums up the social forum. Great workshops, many interesting meetings, no conrete outcomes. Than he gets to an interesting question: What would a contemporary Diego Rivera paint if invited by Ford? Not being sure of the answer himself he suggests self representation.

Self representation than would serve as a strategy to be an individual, to be more than a mere number in the 99 percent, to be existing, to be seen. That might also explain the popularity in the States for storytelling on the crisis. For example see the work of filmers Sílvia Leindecker and Michael Fox who made the documentary film Crossing the American Crises.

I don’t know why storytelling like this is so popular. Would it be because the culture of the USA is not all about cozily getting together and being a society, but more on individually pursuing your goals? Would it be because public space is merely non-existent, something you quickly pass through in order to get your destination? It struck me that many more people here than back home do walk their dogs with an iPod in their ears… Talking about the capsular society.

It might be precisely for that reason that the Occupy movement, and its’ predecessors in Wisconsin and Madison, touched an open vein in this country. Now people were getting together, they were talking, they were meeting eachother as individuals. Naturally a lot was and will be said on the Occupy Movement, but one thing cannot be forgotten: people met.

Here in Detroit – where the word Occupy has a bizarre idea to it – two events happening tomorrow might be illustrative to that idea. On the occasion of December 6th “Occupy Our Homes" two events take place in Detroit. Two families struggling to keep on living in their homes, threatened to be foreclosed, will hopefully receive mass attention. And than?

Perhaps in this country with its’ cynicism towards all things political it might just be that storyteling is a way to get a political message through. I suppose we all do remember the sixties slogan that ‘all is political’. Back than a certain narrative, and a certain political vision, accompanied the storytelling – what that vision would be today, or tomorrow, still seems unclear. So to end this post: I’d suggest Riviera to paint the dignity of the worker in relation to the networks of globalized finance. From its’ origins in ancient times to this era of hypercapitalism. Orisha God Coatlicue will give way to Ogun, cleaning the roads. That picture should be symbolizing the before mentioned battle between self-immolation or an increase in human flourishing.

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