This page records useful and interesting quotations on the subject of art, war, and objectivity. If you have suggestions or comments, please be let us know. 

Gerhard Richter
(photo by Hans Peter Schaefer) 

"War is upsetting, because it demonstrates our impotence, because obviously we can't prevent it, because we cannot assess it anywhere near adequately. That becomes apparent in the many different judgements, prejudices, and simplifications we hear and read. That is why I absolutely avoided expressing an opinion, which is completely useless here and obstructs the attempt to come somewhat closer to the truth."
~ Gerhard Richter


Tim Hetherington
photograph by Justin Hoch) 

"What is called 'objectivity,' scientific for instance (in which I firmly believe, in a given situation), imposes itself only within a context which is extremely vast, old, powerfully established, stabilized or rooted in a network of conventions (for instance those of language) and yet which still remains a context. And the emergence of the value of objectivity (and hence of so many others) also belongs to a context. We can call 'context' the entire 'real-history-of-the-world,' if you like, in which this value of objectivity and, even more broadly, that of truth (etc.) have taken on meaning and imposed themselves. That does not in the slightest discredit them. In the name of what, of which other 'truth,' moreover, would it? One of the definitions of what is called deconstruction would be the effort to take this limitless context into account, to pay the sharpest and broadest attention possible to context, and thus to an incessant movement of recontextualization. The phrase which for some has become a sort of slogan, in general so badly understood, of deconstruction ("there is nothing outside the text" [il n'y a pas de hors-texte]) means nothing else: there is nothing outside context. In this form, which says exactly the same thing, the formula would doubtless have been less shocking. I am not certain that it would have provided more to think about."

~ Jacques Derrida. Limited Inc. (1977), p. 136 


"The war in Afghanistan has become highly politicised." [But the experiences of the soldiers] "are important to understand, regardless of one's political beliefs. Beliefs are a way to avoid looking at reality. This is reality."

~ Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger

"The frustrating thing about Afghanistan is that you come to a thoughtful, well-reasoned solution, but for every idea there's an equally well-reasoned counter idea." 

 ~ Sebastian Junger, author & director,
quoted in The New Yorker (June 13& 20, 2011)

"Very often, instructive data ... have been found in creative literature, which is less objective than clinical observation but all the more true because more inspired. After all, the ultimate goal of all research is not objectivity, but truth."

~ Helen Deutsche, The Psychology of Women: A Psychoanalytic Interpretation
Vol. 1.  (New York: Grune & Stratton, 1950), page xii.

"Ideally, a media system suitable for a democracy ought to provide its readers with some coherent sense of the broader social forces that affect the conditions of their everyday lives. It is difficult to find anyone who would claim that media discourse in the United States even remotely approaches this ideal. The overwhelming conclusion is that the media generally operate in ways that promote apathy, cynicism, and quiescence, rather than active citizenship and participation.... The underdetermined nature of media discourse allows plenty of room for challengers such as social movements to offer competing constructions of reality and to find support for them from readers whose daily lives may lead them to construct meaning in ways that go beyond media imagery."    

~ William Gamson et al., 1992


"To me, one of the essential jobs of art — of all the arts — is to bear witness to the painful, dodgy, or complicated things in life. To illuminate dark things, so the rest of us may see and consider them, and begin to understand why they stir the feelings in us that they do."

~ Cate McQaid, journalist 


"It is one of the biggest lies of the serious art world that anything goes. That may be the case in regard to form, material and techniques, but when it comes to cultural politics, my art world leans decidedly leftward. In Chelsea galleries you are not going to find art made in the service of family values, patriotism or orthodox religion. Republican presidents may be satirically skewered, those who are Democrats hardly ever. You are unlikely to see anything condemning abortion ir advocating looser gun control laws in a Whitney Biennial....

"Unlike, say, movies and books that expansively meditate on topics of urgent interest to lots of people and at the same time eran the respect of smart critics--the novels of Richard Ford and the films of Wes Anderson, for example--the contemporary art scene tends to favor navel-gazing or promotion of certain agendas. The movement known as Institutional Critique, which obsessively parses the system by which art is circulated  and consumed and has been, paradoxically, much favored by museum curators, is only the most conspicuous instance of this blinkered view of real, multidimensional life in the world at large."

~ Ken Johnson, "Fame Without a Legacy," The New York Times (June 23, 2012).


Photo credits:  Gerhard Richter (top) photo by Hans Peter Schaefer (Used in accordance with Creative Commons License); Tim Hetherington(second from top) photograph by Justin Hoch (Used in accordance with Creative Commons License)