Beautiful, Gruesome, and True
Artists at Work in the Face of War

Kaelen Wilson-Goldie

Published by Columbia Global Reports, 2022
ISBN 9781735913735

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Art has a long history of engaging with conflict and violence. From the antiquities, through Goya, to Guernica, our museums are filled with depictions of battles, pogroms, uprisings, and their suppression. Not all of these stories are told from the perspective of the victors.

Many contemporary creatives have continued this tradition. While the position of the official war artist seems to have gone out of fashion, conflict hasn’t. Artists are compelled to document the violence and conflict that for some is the matter of the everyday.

Kaelen Wilson-Goldie’s Beautiful, Gruesome, and True is an account of the lives and practices of three such artists Teresa Margolles, Amar Kanwar, and the collective Abounadorra. The documents which these practices produce have found their way into the mainstream contemporary art world, for better, or often worse.

Kaelen Wilson-Goldie speaks to Pierre d’Alancaisez about the implicit contracts artists enter with their communities, the art world’s exploitative interest in conflict, and the role of aesthetic expression in mediating, if not ameliorating conflict.

Kaelen Wilson-Goldie is a writer and critic who contributes regularly to ArtforumAperture, and Afterall, among other publications. She is the author of Etel Adnan, a monographic study on the paintings of the Lebanese-American poet Etel Adnan, and a contributor to numerous books on modern and contemporary art, including Art Cities of the Future: 21st-Century Avant-Gardes and Huguette Caland: Everything Takes the Shape of a Person. She lives in New York City and Beirut.

Teresa Margolles was born in Culiacán, Mexico, and is a conceptual artist known for incorporating the physical memory of conflict and pain into her work.

Abounaddara is an anonymous collective known for producing more than 400 short films chronicling the uprising and civil war in Syria.

Amar Kanwar was born in New Delhi, India, and has distinguished himself through films and multi‐media works which explore the politics of power, violence and justice.

My interview with Renzo Martens.