August 15, 2008

A Song for Europe

It began with a song – A Song for Europe.

At an empty café, a singer recollects a faded love affair, projecting loss in elegiac melody. Remembering “moments lost in wonder that we’ll never find again,” he realizes how his world has become “a shell full of memories.” He has nothing to share with his now forsaken love except “yesterday,” his obsessive reveries doom him to retrace an endless past, trapped in the decadent European settings that now only mimic romance.

More than homage to a passionate lover, these lyrics become for me an allegory of a waning Western culture. The once proud and wondrous Europe is passé, past its prime and out of step with the brave New World. Ideas and methods once cutting edge are now ridiculed as traditional; the grand narratives of Old World history now devalued as “constructed.” No center, its languages suspect, its relics encased in dusty institutional displays, its art defaced and mocked.

So was begun my memoriam to this "old world," an investigation of its past glories and achievements. Related through philosophy and theory, Europe’s disembodied “voices” comprehend that “presence” and “knowledge” are momentary; “absent” as all moments are transitory, however “enchanted.” The past is malleable through text and ideology as all history and “truth” are utterly unknowable. This is a postmodern lament. Fully aware of its fragility, our Western culture is at the mercy of Globalization that takes from the West what it can use and discards the rest on that long forgotten and decaying continent.

Song for Europe at The Athenaeum, Aug. 16-Sept. 21, 2008.
Gallery hours: Thursday-Sunday, 12-4 pm. Info: 1-703-548-0035.
UPDATE: Podcast here.

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