Can art temper our most destructive impulses? What role does empathy play in contemporary art? Art21 documentary Compassion navigates our emotional and ethical connection with art through the works of artists Doris Salcedo, Carrie Mae Weems and William Kentridge.
Doris Salcedo is a Columbian artist whose understated sculptures and installations embody the silenced lives of the marginalized, from individual victims of violence to the disempowered of the Third World. Salcedo has gained notoriety for her powerful pieces that provoke viewers to understand both the victim and the perpetrator, with her work ‘Shibboleth’ featured to great acclaim in the Turbine Hall of Tate Modern in 2007. Her art as a whole explores ideas of the immigrant, community, and the experience of racial hatred.
With the pitch and timbre of an accomplished storyteller, Carrie Mae Weems uses colloquial forms – jokes, songs, rebukes – in photographic series that scrutinize subjectivity and expose pernicious stereotypes. Her work focuses on the experience of African-Americans in matters gender, race, sexuality, politics, and personal identity, while injecting her personal experiences to help articulate broader truths.
William Kentridge, having witnessed one of the Twentieth Century’s most contentious struggles, explores the social injustices of his homeland, South Africa, through film, drawing, sculpture and performance. He transmutes sobering political events into powerful poetic allegories, most notably through his animated films.
Art 21: Art in the 21st Century is an award-winning series of 24 programmes in which 100 contemporary artists explain their creations, their creative processes, and their perceptions of art. Available for the first time on DVD in the UK, Art21 covers a wide range of artists and contemporary visual art.