In February, I visited an exhibit on tattoos at Chicago’s Field Museum. Among the artifacts and media on display was a video of angry tattooed men in Thailand in what appeared to be a giant mosh pit. The video had no sound and no captions. Wondering what was going on, I turned to a nearby museum volunteer and asked why the men were fighting. He gently explained to me that they weren’t fighting; they were taking part in a festival celebrating a sacred tattooing tradition.
The men in the video weren’t angry—they were ecstatic. I was embarrassed when I realized that I’d made an assumption about what was going on in the video without having all the facts. Sometimes a bias is so entrenched within us that we don’t even realize it’s there. Watching that video and talking about it with the docent was a good reminder of the way I project my own expectations onto the world around me.
In the interview with the Flobots that starts on page 7, band member Stephen Brackett mentions this idea that it’s very difficult to tell the difference between joy and terror without context. When I first read that, I was reminded of my trip to the Field Museum. It got me thinking again about all the small and big ways that art can educate us.
The feature stories in the issue are about art and its power to transform. On page 7, the Flobots discuss their new album, NOENEMIES, in an interview with Denver VOICE vendor Michael Burkley. Part of the intent behind NOENEMIES is to connect music back to social justice initiatives and help listeners find their own voices.
On page 5 we have a much more personal story about art transforming an individual. That interview shows how photography helped formerly homeless Chazzi Davis cope with bipolar disorder.
Whether it’s a song, a photo, or piece of writing, this month we’re celebrating the way art can change us. ■