The Art of Citizenship
Presented to the ABR-Discussion Group, February 4, 2010
For the Global Citizenship Poster project, I have chosen to break away from the standard use of computer generated images and graphics. Instead, I have utilized my artistic skills to increase and perhaps, promote awareness, by drawing attention to a country that has received relatively little attention with regard to the implementation of citizenship education. Infused with emotion and perspective, I have been driven by a sense of duty and desire to create a synthetic cubist painting that embodies the notion of xenophobia in Greece. Xenophobic attitudes threaten to erode the existing democratic and human rights values of a nation that was once known as the birthplace of democracy and citizenship. Choosing a cubist approach for this poster is not coincidental. The quasi-abstract appearance of cubism clearly lends itself to a symbolic association of the split between citizenship theory and citizenship practice, which are in a sense, rather abstracted from one another. For example, many models of democratic citizenship, on which educational systems are built, paradoxically, often exclude gender concerns, which abstracts from social (gender) relations (Arnot, 2004). In that sense, little attention is paid to the gendered nature of citizenship ideals.
Because there has been greater emphasis toward Greeks immigrating abroad, rather than to foreigners entering Greece, there have been few educational tools and initiatives used to develop and promote education in the field of democratic citizenship and human rights. In addition, mainstream public schooling does not necessarily provide knowledge on immigrants, minorities, or any kind of otherness. Greece’s highly centralized educational system, furthermore, prevents any essential changes from taking place, despite the discourse of an integrated citizenship education curriculum in Greek schools (Dimitrakopoulos, 2004).
The magnifying glass allows us to zoom in on what lies beneath the surface of a country that seems hypnotized by its glorious past, but is presently, failing to promote equal treatment and anti-discrimination practices and attitudes through programs targeting either specific groups or the general population. The prison bars portray an austere and oftentimes, dehumanizing place created by lack of citizenship awareness, not only for those who are immigrants living in the country, but also for the natives who are essentially “imprisoned”, as they say, “in their own country” by fear of otherness, which creates a politically-charged climate that threatens to bring down a civil society.
The synthetic cubist representation creates the dimensions both visually and symbolically as seen from several viewpoints, while the colour values provide the maximum contrast available, which is useful in controlling visibility and hence, drawing attention to the significance of the relationship between the ranges of values available in the world around us. Instead of restricting myself to geometrical figures, I have created a version of cubism that moves away from austere geometry toward fluid forms, softened by looser drawing and more liberated brushwork as seen in the works of Liubov Sergeevna Popova, one of the most remarkable, prolific, and influential female artists of the Russian avant-garde. My intent was to create an image that reaches beyond the rigid geometry of perspective and introduce the idea of “relativity” by including both my observations and memories into the one concentrated image. I have also incorporated some elements of Cubist Still Life Paintings from 1914 – 1915, which made use of the bright primary colors red, blue, green, yellow, as well as pure white and black, a color scheme that recalls such works by Marc Chagall.
Synthetic cubism has allowed me to move away from the unified monochrome surfaces of cubism by interchanging lines, colours, patterns and textures, that switch from geometric to freehand, dark to light, positive to negative and plain to patterned that advance and recede in rhythms across the picture plain. Although synthetic cubist images appear more abstract in their use of simplified forms, the other elements of their composition are applied quite traditionally.
Although the painting itself presents enough factual information to allow for the beginnings of interpretation, its purpose is to raise awareness, which I hope to have done by providing you with some background and ultimately, by articulating the meaning and purpose behind the painting/poster.
University of Alberta
Due: Thursday October 24, 2008