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No Battery: Tortures with Art

Author: 17.12.2015 | art, society, personalities
There is a reason why they say that even goods things are good to an extent – even art served in a certain manner may not just bring joy and help experience catharsis but also break psyche down. On how exactly beauty serves as an instrument of torture – read below in Outlook.

No Sleep, No Hiding

French painter and musician Alphonse Laurencic was the world’s first man to prove that art is a perfect instrument of torture and psychological pressure. In 1930s, during Civil War in Spain he actively supported the republicans. Having opted for brushes instead of weapons and being inspired by works of Kandinsky, Dali and Buñuel, Laurencic, who, according to his contemporaries, was also extremely talented, created so-called color rooms with no windows. Their walls were covered in psychedelic installations and paintings in surreal style. Various objects were affixed to their floors not to let a prisoner lie down and stretch out and what seemed to be a bed was designed to make it impossible to fall asleep – body would constantly slide. These cameras were called La Cheka and Francoists, who were at war with republicans, ended up there more often than others. This, at first glance, funny punishment in fact made prisoners go insane for they had to sleeplessly stare at abstract picture art in very bright colors day and night. It isn’t positively known how many people lost their sanity in such a way exactly, but the fact that as nearly as the first thing Franco’s allies did, upon seizing the power in the country, was to sentence Laurencic, not political or military figures, to death tells volumes.

ЭКСПЕРИМЕНТ МАРИИ ПРОНИНОЙ from Mitec on Vimeo.

Burgess Wrote It All

Everyone who has read Anthony Burgess’s Clockwork Orange will never forget scenes of “re-education” of its main character Alex. One of the methods of influence on him was compulsory review of special films and videos. It seems like the book has made huge impression on a British painter Luke Turner and an American actor Shia LaBeouf who came up with #AllMyMovies performance and put into practice. In mid-November 2015 Shia LaBeouf spent three days at Angelika Film Center, New York watching movies, where he starred, without a break. During the marathon everybody, who wanted to, could join the star for free and there was also an online broadcast of the actor’s emotions during review. What Shia went through and how it was for him to see himself on screen in such amounts is still a mystery because after the review he remains tight-lipped and avoids media by all means.

Body Is Canvas

Famous Serbian artist Marina Abramović is considered “Godmother” of performances of all kinds. In over 50 years of creative work she shocked audience on numerous occasions with various actions and almost every time she used own body as the main instrument. Rhythm 0 torture turned out especially remarkable. In 1947, naked, she was locked with visitors of one of galleries in Naples; there were 72 various objects, from roses and candles to whips and knives, placed on the table and a notice hanged saying that the body of the artist was at disposal of people around and that they could do anything with it. At first suspecting-nothing audience were perplexed but then, having realized that there was no way to leave the gallery, they entered the game, as if pretending, however it was more and more painful for the woman every other minute. Several hours later Marina’s body was covered with abrasions, cuts and blood and there was no stopping the public. Ultimately, as doors opened, the artist was dragged out of the hall. According to herself, her experiment turned a success and she easily proved that should you let people, they become violent animals.

Marina Abramovic on Rhythm 0 (1974) from Marina Abramovic Institute on Vimeo.

Ice Attraction

Chinese dissident and sculptor Qi Lei decided to challenge ice and demonstrate that inner creative energy will be enough to melt it. To do that he came up with a cold torture for himself – he trapped his own body in an ice block. However, aside from fans and assistants, the Chinese by and large developed no interest in the performance and decided that Qi Lei required psychological help therefore almost immediately after plunge into freeze the action was interrupted by an ambulance car that took the artist to the hospital with freeze burns. He was very upset that he wasn’t given a chance to compete with ice and was written an administrative fine on top of it, so no one was really surprised when a year later he committed a suicide without recovering from a depression.

Ears Suffer, Brain Melts

As we can see, majority of tortures with art or in the name of art one way or another are connected to painters and artists. They either torture others or voluntarily excruciate themselves. However things that happened (information is classified so nobody knows if such cases keep occurring) in American prisons Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo relate to artists only circumstantially. Popular music is one of the most powerful instruments used during interrogation especially when lyrics were in English and a recipient was an Arab. Hundreds of prisoners, when out of jail, admitted that the most horrible for them was impact of music – when they were made listen to same songs at top volume for 16 hours. Then a break with complete silence came for everything to start over again afterwards. Sleepless and washed-out, they confessed even to thing they never committed. Such cases, that were especially frequent during war in Iraq, became public fare as a result of journalistic investigations. Many famous musicians like Eminem and Marilyn Manson as well as Queen and Metallica bands and others were surprised to see own hits in “madness track lists”, that were published by media; they now intend to sue CIS. Alongside pure ethical cause there is also a legal one – copyright violation. It is yet to be discovered if artists, who involuntarily became accomplices in crimes against humanity, will succeed in punishing those in fault. At times art of completely different styles that is designed to bring emotions, mostly positive, may exert completely opposite influence. And there aren’t many people who have it within their powers to comprehend it!

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