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In human history, there are cracks deeper than others, traumas, moments of rupture that caused irreversible changes. We need new and different tools in order to analyze and read new codes of conduct, of cultural traditions, as well as political systems and economies. Today, we will present the work of three socially committed artists that work in the art field because they strongly believe that art could become an important tool for analyzing and raising awareness of the changes currently happening in the world. 

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Steve McQueen (b. 1969 in London; lives in Amsterdam, Netherlands) 

As an artist and filmmaker, Steve McQueen often trains his lens on histories that have been overlooked and uses his work to call attention to experiences and perspective that are underrepresented. The emotional impact of his socially engaged films, however, often resides in his emphasis on depictions of the human body and his use of both close-ups and long takes that powerfully concentrate the most fundamental elements of moving image - light, sound, and motion. McQueen studied fine art before focusing on filmmaking, and many of his work draws on experimental approaches to narrative and relate a deeply subjective experience of the subject. McQueen, who is Grenadan and Trinidadian origins, has repeatedly made works that dress exploration and abuse in colonial Americans - from histories of indigenous resistance to slavery in the United States - and he considers himself "part of the slave diaspora" as much as African Americans in the United States. "The only thing between us [and African American], " he asserted, "is my boat went one way theirs went another".

 

STEVE MCQUEEN, Portrait as an Escapologist, 2006black-and-white offset prints. Courtesy Thomas Dane Gallery

 

Liu Xiaodong (b. 1963 in Liaoning Province, China; Lives in Beijing, China)

One of the leading artist of the Neo-Realist "New Generation" in 1990s. China, Liu Xiaodong chronicles the everyday lives of people at the margins of society, and his works reflect his desire to engage people of diverse social, religious and ethnic backgrounds. In part a result of his artistic training in the 1980s - a period when students were required to go to the countryside and paint peasants and factory workers in a Socialist Realist style - Liu typically paints in situ, setting up his mobile studio space in people's homes, in restaurants, or on the street, to create large - scale figurative oil paintings. Liu's documentary urge is visible in the sense of immediacy in his works and it likewise complex him to get to know his subjects and reflect urgent social, political, or environment issues in his works. In 2003, for example, Liu's Displacement series highlighted the human costs of China's Three Gorges Dam project, which displaced over 1.3 million and flooded over a thousand towns and villages along the Yangtze River. 

 

Liu Xiaodong  Weight of Insomnia (Beijing), 2016  Acrylic on canvas 250 x 300 cm 98 3/8 x 118 1/8 in. Courtesy Lisson Gallery

 

Hiwa K (b. 1975 in Sulaymaniyah, Iraq; lives in Berlin, Germany) 

In gestural videos, performances, and cultural installations, Hiwa K illustrates personal and political histories, drawing attention to routine activities that reveal modes of adaption and feelings of nostalgia. Many of his works draw inspiration from his hometown of Sulaymaniya in Northen Iraq, a predominantly Kurdish area that was home to Saddam Hussein's Amna Suraka, of Red Security Building, a site of torture and detainment for thousands of Kurdish political prisoners in the late 1980s. In several works, Hiwa K has drawn moments of rupture in public life and his own interventions in political demonstrations. As a political refugee, he has also grappled with doubt about the effectiveness of civil protest and has considered how the qualities of protest compare to routine communal rituals. 

 

Hiwa K, My Father’s color periods, 2013. Video installation with 16 old TV sets and cellophane sheets. Courtesy prometeogallery di Ida Pisani

 

Cover image: STEVE MCQUEEN, Ashes, 2014, 8mm transferred to HD with audio, posters, continuous loop. Courtesy Thomas Dane Gallery

 

Stay Tuned on Kooness magazine for more exciting news from the art world.

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