ON MEANING: Recognizing Humanity - Part 2

On Meaning: Recognizing Humanity - Part 2

Above: multidimensional multi-layer stencil print by Detroit artist Eno Laget.

Her power was in her ability to use words to get people to think and particularly critically think about why things are the way they are and how they might change. -Eno Laget

Here's the continuation of a talk I had with Detroit artist and printmaker, Eno Laget for On Meaning. Today, October 31, happens to be his birthday.

On Meaning is a seasonal interview series featured in ARTHAUS:Detroit's newsletter where I chat with local artists, like Alana Carlson (winter/spring) and Ron Rodriguez (summer), who've created compelling work steeped in meaning. You'll find those conversations here.

Eno Laget (EL): What I see in her face is engagement. And because she was a public intellectual, her power was in her ability to use words to get people to think and particularly critically think about why things are the way they are and how they might change. And words are power, is really what it comes down to. And that her mouth is moving implies that she's not at rest. She's engaged, she's speaking to somebody. And a lot of that has something to do with finding the words to express what you can't quite see at the moment, yet you know there's more than what is going on right now, and it has everything to do with moral imagination. It's the idea that it's reaching for the next place that brings us all closer together. I think that's what it's about.

ARTHAUS:Detroit (AD): I'm thinking, I'm listening, and taking in what you are saying, thinking about her using words to engage her audience, whomever that might be. As well, that everyone has different tools that are suited to them for engaging others.

EL: Yeah. The whole idea is to engage in conversation.

AD: Some people will engage others with their paintbrush or pen, may not say anything while they're working, or even when they're done, to let the work speak for itself. Others will engage with movement or motion. Some will engage with scripted theater. Others will engage with lyric, music, or both. But there are those who engage purely by use of the word, be that written, spoken, or both. And so, you're articulating that words were her medium and that what you're encapsulating is the artist using her medium to engage others in critical thought.

EL: Yeah. But as soon as you are willing to engage in a critical thought, that means you're willing to examine your own sense of reality. And when you see that thinking needs to adjust to the reality that you see in front of you, because the way that you have been seeing doesn't work --

AD: Doesn't line up with what's actually happening.

EL. Yeah. When you see what's happening requires different thinking, having the courage to let go of an idea that may have worked before but doesn't work anymore, it requires a lot of courage to reach for whatever the next thing is, even though you can't exactly see it. When you have to find other ideas to move things forward in a more sustainable way that works better for everybody.

If the goal is to take care of each other, some things obviously work better than others. Some ways of acting. Some ways of thinking. You know? Why don't people have more empathy for people who are not like them? And how do you go about changing systems or policies that don't serve everybody. And when you come to the conclusion that the way you've been problem-solving is not working, what do you do? I mean, [people in] our country have a habit of solving problems with violence. Things aren't going the way we want, so we just better kill those people that don't agree with us, or get 'em out of the way; they don't belong here.


Why don't people have more empathy for people who are not like them? - Eno Laget

Above: Multi-layer stencil print of Grace Lee Boggs by Eno Laget

What's great about her...one of her quotes that's on the smaller poster (above) is, "Don't get stuck in old ideas." It's like constantly acknowledging that things are changing and we need to be able to move, when you see the opportunity to move, to make a difference, need to do something. 

AD: It looks to me, and sounds to me, like she used her words  for mobilization.

EL: Exactly. Organizing and actually getting people on the same page, to be able to come together to make changes. It's like one person can't do much by themselves, but if enough people organize around an idea or a goal, they can change thinking, change minds, change lives. 

Happy birthday, Eno! You can find this interview with him, in its entirety, at On Meaning.

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