3 symbols (the victims are hidden)

The 3 symbols composite describes a space filled with ghostlike substance and transitory form. Of the hundreds of images collected and blended together, no single image can be completely identified. The images portray natural beauty, the products of science and many arbitrary scenes from holiday photos, catalogues and magazines. They also document disease, war, and suffering. All in some way represent fragments of peoples’ lives.

Some of these people are victims of circumstance, of natural processes, others of political decisions. The victims are all here, contained and preserved but hidden: in trying to show the global scale of suffering, the individual reality of what it means to be a victim is lost. The composite images all become a blur, a sameness, a composite image of ‘genocide’ blurs into another representing ‘grow’. Is this a real equivalence or just the obvious, inevitable consequence of adding pixels together? But our images are always just mechanical reproductions, their truth is more than what the image actually is.

For every victim, there is a victimiser – a person who stands to gain something (or not loose something). Can these 2 people ever be directly compared?

“A quick test of the assertion that enjoyment outweighs pain in this world, or that they are at any rate balanced, would be to compare the feelings of an animal engaged in eating another with those of the animal being eaten.”


Arthur Schopenhauer [On the Suffering of the World]

Could it be true that for every act of murder, torture, oppression, there is somewhere an equally strong but polarised act of life-saving kindness and compassion? On a global scale, if it were possible to add up all these acts, in which way would the scale tip? Even if humanity’s composite acts could be summed up into a single, momentary positive or a negative, would that answer mean that there is hope, or that there is no hope?

The 3 symbols composite picture is an attempt to show in a single image, all the beauty and suffering in the world. This is obviously impossible. The methodology of creating the picture was loaded towards the horror of life, because it seems to me that beauty needs less explaining than suffering. Art is almost impotent when it comes to solving the problems of humanity. This is quite a depressing thought but nonetheless, what else is there to do?

There are people alive today who understand what suffering is and whose purpose is to relieve pain and prevent violence. From a Tibetan prayer: “For as long as even a few sentient beings are not liberated from suffering…” because of these people, hope exists whilst there is still suffering in the world.


© michael davies, 2007