Villa GrimaldiTranscript of Radio Interview and gives good perspective about the “Pornography of War” and the philosophy that underpins the work

PL:  Namaya, it is good to connect with you again about your work as an artist and poet.  How has 2013 been for you?

N: If Life gets any better I am going to have to give it a refund. 2013 Started in Galapagos Island for two weeks with my wife and friends.  For me, my judgment of a place is how it inspires me.  I started drawing a public art project based on Galapagos and a poem by Gary Snyder.  He had written a book “Turtle Island,” and I had always loved the myths of creation based on the story of Turtles. Now, in the new project with Chile, I am incorporating those themes in terms of the Mapuche legends of the creation of the Earth.

PL: I liked your writings from Isla Negra and poems you were writing in conversation with Neruda.

N: It was such a joyful time being at Isla Negra and feeling the presence of Neruda.  I love how he was in love with life!  Wandering around his house and seeing this amazing curious person who loved life and people.  When I woke up at Isla I was less than 50 meters from the ocean and felt that power and attraction of the Ocean.  I can see why he was inspired to write there.

PL: He seems like he was your companero!  How did this lead to this new Project – Memoria. Hablar. Dignidad. and your involvement with “Villa Grimaldi.” (the Human Rights Center and Peace Park in Santiago Chile.)

N: We were fortunate in meeting with the director of the Villa Grimaldi Center for Human Rights. They were incredibly gracious in meeting with us and talking about the center and the story of how this beautiful garden was transformed into a center of torture and killing during the Pinochet years and now a Center of Human Rights to commemorate those people tortured and killed

As I had given earlier the draft of the performance MEMORIA HABLAR DIGNIDAD MHD 40 is both an art and a performance project. It incorporates native Mapuche Indians and utilizing their story of creation, poetry, and song. There are several parts to the performance: the first is a story of creation using the Mapuche myths and legends: the next is the encounter with the Europeans: then the transformation of this indigenous society: the emergence and awareness of human rights for the poor and disenfranchised during the 1960s up until the time of Pinochet. I incorporate poetry and songs of Pablo Neruda, Victor Jara. Violeta Para, and others.

PL: How is this project personally important for you?

N:  It is powerfully important. I’ve been working with this long-term art project called pornography of war for the past five years plus.  In this art project/performance I continue to explore the theme of war violence and militarism in society.  This project MHD 40 is a natural outgrowth of this.  But the work is not only about war and militarism, it is about exploring the values of hope that changes the culture of war militarism.  Those enduring values of love and hope. It is also about embracing beauty in a world that too often denies it.

PL: Namaya I realize you have a humanistic soul, but isn’t this a bit idealistic? Really, in the world filled with such war and violence, do you really believe that love can genuinely transform this?

N: I have no other choice but to believe that love is the transforming power. I’m not sure that I could survive without that belief.  Love is the transformative power

Though my artwork is ugly by some standards, it is a mirror of what I see. For example in the art piece on Pedophilia, “IT is not Pedophilia, it is Child Rape,” But it is the distorted mirror. As militarism war and violence are is a distorted picture of human nature.

NL: But human nature is about destruction and creation.  Isn’t this cycle of war, death, and rebirth simply part of human nature as it is the rest of the animal kingdom?

N: I agree to some extent.  We have that innate animalistic tendency towards death and destruction.  In the Middle Ages we put people on the rack and torture them.  In the era of George Bush the US government did waterboarding. We have the propensity for such barbarism and evil in the world, but we have the power and the choice to make different choices.

PL: How does this apply to the project in Chile? We we have seen such enormous barbarity with the Pinochet government and how do the power of love, as you say, change or did it?

N: There is another power of love, and that is the courage to love in the face of enormous evil and hatred.  Gandhi spoke so beautifully of this power, but more importantly he lives that truth.  It is this power he called “speaking truth to power.”  In this performance, I’ve tried to weave together the strands of people facing destruction as a society, such as the Mapuche Indians, and the people of Chile during the 1970s. There are thousands of stories, many that we will never know that speak of this love and courage, the love encourage to resist fascism. Violence never erases evil, but force, in this case the presence of love, the hope for our children and the next generation can transform hatred

PL: that seems like a tall order. The force of love can stop war, evil. In hatred is that correct?  That seems if you will forgive me incredibly naive or incredibly optimistic.

N: I think you’re right it is naïve and optimistic, perhaps even foolish.  This is an exploration of human nature, this is an attempt through poets and artists eyes to understand this question of war and militarism and violence.  In the rational mind is too easy to be seduced by the calculation of war. It is a paradox, war and hatred are irrational. Love is irrational. Which do we choose?

For me as a poet, my task is to ask the questions. That is the highest order of a poet or artist.  It is not necessarily to reflect back a pretty picture, but even of good picture or painting illustrates a good question about life, nature relationships.

PL: For example?

N: coming back to this project MHD 40.  I do not have an answer about Chile, human rights, where the future of human rights in Chile.  That would be immensely presumptuous.  Instead, what I provide or offer is the context for the dialectic.  It is much as Pablo Freire in “pedagogy of the oppressed,” is that dialectic model to deeply understand the nature of a problem. It wasn’t sufficient for the peasant to say “I’m poor,” what was more critical is her answer, “I have no hope for my children.”

PL: so that is why Socrates was ordered to be killed?

NL: the most dangerous thing in a free society is a person who is free to think and speak his or her mind. This is predicated on people thinking, not such a widespread phenomenon.  As a philosopher Krishnamurti, always compelled us, “I think deeply on these issues, make your position known, believed this position, and then question it.” The greatest damage to a free society is people not questioning, not thinking, and not acting in their highest role as a citizen.

PL:  in a review of one of your performance shows “Witness to Genocide,” the reviewer noted that you were a public intellectual – a philosopher who presented your questions on stage. Is that right?

N: we have in the US such a pejorative perception of the word intellectual, and I would like to think that it is merely a person who cares enough about an issue to think it through carefully and as thoroughly as possible. We live in an age of sound bites and ditto heads. I see this on both the right and the left; people are not always carefully thinking and reflecting on an issue.  My role as an artist is to compel people to reflect, think, and wonder.  In other words, an unquestioned life is a meaningless life.

PL: there is an English expression, ignorance is bliss?

N: it sure as hell is!  But to a limited extent.  Ultimately by closing one’s eyes to the problems of the world, and saying it is not my problem, this comes back and haunts us.

PL: in this context of the performance MHD 40, how do you see this same dynamic playing out?

N: in the beginning when the fascist were so prominent and powerful they overwhelmed the opposition. Despite horrific brutality people questioned, people raised their voices around the world, and refused to give in to the pernicious evil of Pinochet.

PL: you used the word evil a number of times in this discussion. What is evil to you? Religious moral ethical?

N: Evil has many faces.  It is not the force of the mythic devil, but something far more insidious.  The insidious element is allowing a wrong that harms people or the environment, knowing about it, and doing nothing about it.

I think there are many dimensions to evil, but I would say is the absence of love is the heart of evil.

PL: The absence of love is the heart of evil?

N: That is one part of it. I’m not a relativist but I do believe each person needs to ascertain what is evil for them. I think it is easy to agree on a dimension of evil: the Holocaust, the occupation of Palestine, world hunger when there is plenty of food, homelessness in the US, and the list goes on. To me, I reflect back what I see through the eyes of a poet. And again, the imperative for me as an artist/ poet – is to ask questions

PL: Namaya PL: coming back to this project in Chile MHD 40 – – what is your hope and expectation?

N: Kazantzakis the Greek writer said, “Have no fear, have no expectations, live free?”  This is an unusual art performance project. As I had done with the cost of war, and the Clearwater Festival projects, the wall, and other projects I tried to engage the audience in a conversation. For me as both the storyteller artist, poet I find this conversation on a real and tangible level as the most satisfying. It is not enough for me to present a picture or poem, I want that talk back. My art will stand on its own for better or worse, but I want that  talkback. This is our philosophy at the B4 Peace Projects, “Art-word-performance and community engagement”


PL: Namaya it has been as always a wonderful journey to talk with you and explore your ideas and perceptions of pornography, and this project :Memoria Hablar. Dignidad.

N:   I appreciated the opportunity to talk with you on art edge international

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