Last night I went to see Imran Qureshi’s roof garden commission at the Metropolitan Museum. I had read about the piece but was not prepared for how realistic the blood-like color of Qureshi’s work would be. The Pakistani artist uses the deep red to commemorate brutal bombings in Lahore.
When you look closely at the splattered “blood” you see that Qureshi has painted intricate floral patterns in many of the splotches. Flowers grow and gardens bloom from a violence inflicted landscape. It can be seen as a hopeful portrait of rebirth and regeneration.
Perhaps most disturbing is not the art itself but viewers reactions to it. Museum goers walk all over it and sip $6 cocktails at its edges. They overlook it by dropping litter, chatting with friends, or texting on their smart phones. In essence they have the opportunity to witness large scale tragedy and can choose to ignore it or contemplate its meaning.
The Yoga Sutras suggest that non-violence is the first and most important of the Yama. Not only do we seek to remove the violence we inflict on ourselves and others but we need to work more than ever to remove brutality from our world.
Why is that task so difficult?