On June 28th the Argentinian Branch of Heart’s Home successfully organized their first Gala Dinner in Buenos Aires. This event, preceded by a ten-day Art Exhibition, prompted Rev. Thierry de Roucy, Heart’s Home founder, to meditate once more on the healing power of artwork. Here is the text in its integrity:
“Right before her departure to the Westerbock Camp, Holland, Etty Hillseum gives to her friend, Marie Tuinzing, her journals starting from Saturday, March 8, 1941 to Sunday October, 11, 1942 – Pages filled with authenticity and depth and which were published only 40 years later.
The first journal starts in some kind of confusion. She speaks about “her infinite feeling of loneliness . . . uncertainty, anguish.” She has the feeling that “life is dreadfully difficult.” She claims to be “very inhibited and lacking in self-confidence.” A year and a half later, this same journal ends in a blaze of glory with this sentence: “one would like to be a balm poured out on so many wounds.”
There are the unthinkable wounds of all those who are sent to the transit camps, in the Netherlands or elsewhere, before being sent to Auschwitz… But “little by little all the surface of the earth will be an immense camp, and nobody will be able to stay outside of it.” (July 11, 1942) Maybe this is already the case for the whole world because wherever there is a man, there is a black spot, a place of endless suffering.
What should we do about this? In fact, nobody knows…Thousands of loaves or roofs, thousands of vaccines or NGOs would not be sufficient to put an end to so much destitution… And there are pains that money, knowledge or health are unable to console – namely loneliness, anguish and lack of meaning. To overcome this situation, we need to understand that “doing” will not be a solution, and that our “doing” should be about “being,” as Etty understood it. And this is true because “being” is the Spirit; the Spirit is the heart; the heart is love.
Each one of us has a heart – no heart, no life! – and thus the mission to console is a universal mission. One is an engineer to program, but also to “be a balm poured out on so many wounds…” One is a painter or a writer (as Etty wanted to become) to produce works of art, but also to bring consolation to the people with whom these works are shared. Thus one cannot buy a book or a painting the same way one buys tomatoes or tools. Buying a work of art is the fruit of a gaze, a complicity, a passion. One chooses with emotion the work of art which will live with us; one chooses it as one chooses a friend. Choosing a work of art consists also in choosing the artist’s sufferings, mischievousness, lunacy and loves. And with the artist’s work, one chooses to welcome the people contained in the work. It is a people that suffers, loves or works. It is a people walking in the darkness as in one of Kieffer’s undergrounds or covered with wounds like in one of Celan’s poems.
The work of art brings me consolation. When I am sad, I listen to some concerti in order to regain strength. When I despair, I look at the warm painting in my office to remind myself that I am not alone. And when I don’t have anybody at my side or when the men’s words like those of Job’s friends, increase my pain, I need these silent presences to remind me that my soul is neither isolated nor thrown into hell . . . even more to remind me that I am immensely loved.
And occasionally I invite into my house a poor widow, sad paintings to console them, violent music to try to make them smile, poems filled with death to resuscitate them. Some evenings my house is so full of these widows, these prisoners, these mad people that there is no more room for anybody other than God.
Friendship is an exchange… The work of art is a balm on our wounds and we are a balm on the work of art’s wounds. This is the glorious and mutual task of man and art.”