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Artist Monika Weiss on Francisco Goya, War, Trauma, and Unforgetting History

In a film by The Metropolitan Museum of Art presented as part of The Met film series, Artists on Artworks, Polish-American artist Monika Weiss shares her insights on the work of Spanish artist Francisco Goya and reflects on her own transdisciplinary practice which investigates relationships between the body and history and evokes rituals of lamentation in response to tragedy. The film premiered on April 6, 2021 in conjunction with the exhibition Goya's Graphic Imagination, curated by Mark McDonald. Some of Weiss' works and some of Goya's works that the artist discusses in the film, are presented below.  

Monika Weiss’ thoughts and ideas presented in The Met's film resonate with us today, as we are living in the time of the war in Ukraine. In response to this time, the artist has written notes
, On War, Trauma, and Unforgetting History, in which she reflects on the humanitarian crises of wars, and recalls her grandfather Leon Knopik, who was one of the defenders of the Polish Post Office in Gdansk in 1939 at the start of World War II.

Landscape

Francisco Goya, Landscape, ca. 1807-1810.. Etching, aquatint. 12 1/8×17 1/16 in.

The Met: This print embodies the calm before the storm, when a foreboding presence threatens to overpower unsuspecting victims. It might therefore capture the fearful anticipation of the invasion by Napoleon’s army, who entered Portugal in 1807 before moving to Spain the following year.

Monika Weiss on Landscape, from the film by The Metropolitan Museum of Art in its Artists on Artworks series (16:31): "... it’s a landscape that is not offering redemption or peace. It’s a romantic landscape that was changed into a frightening body. .... It’s bending away from the impending sky. It’s almost as if the sky and the cloud is touching the trees and pushing them in this very unusual, dramatic way towards the mountain which is piercing the trees. And so together, it creates conflict and somewhere there in the upper right corner, we see a building suspended inside of this mountain that is almost alive, and everything is moving. Nothing is stable in this landscape. And I feel that it’s the sky that is taking over that creates this symbolic and actual feeling of change and impending doom."

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Monika Weiss, Koiman II (Years Without Summers), 2017-2020 (limited edition film still). A cycle of film projections, sound compositions, and large-scale charcoal and graphite drawings inspired by Winterreise (Winter Journey), a cycle of songs composed in 1828 by the German Romantic composer, Franz Schubert.

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“I believe there is a responsibility that comes with being an artist, which is in part poetic and in part political: to listen and to address the archive of events, paying special attention to the forgotten narratives and voices. The concept of nationalism, of any kind, does not interest me. Rather, I believe we need to pay attention to the global nature of oppressive systems and institutionally designed violence. Such violence is often justified by the ideology of “protection,” which usually veils hidden economic and colonialist agendas.”

 

From an interview by Julia P. Herzberg, PhD, published in Monika Weiss: Sustenazo (Lament II) by Museo de la Memoria y Los Derechos Humanos, Santiago, Chile, 2012.

Monika Weiss, artist portrait by Paul Takeuchi, Brooklyn, NY, 2021 

Watch the 30-minute film with Monika Weiss by The Metropolitan Museum of Art in The Met's series, Artists on Artworks 

MET Talk

On War, Trauma, and Unforgetting History
by Monika Weiss

Thinking of History
 

Lament is an extreme expression of despair in the face of loss. As Judith Butler writes, “grief furnishes a se