I read an essay from freize magazine this week in which the author, Morgan Quaintance, offers his perspective on the recent rioting in England. It is a well written, thoughtful essay in which, among other things, he mentions the concept of having a wall in the head – “a phrase originally applied to former residents of the GDR who, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, remained psychologically stuck in the East.” He quotes another author’s work in which it is written ‘to be working-class in Britain is also to have a wall in the head’ – a sort of self-administered mental boundary that stops any movement beyond limited socioeconomic means. . . . .‘the wall is about not knowing what is out there, or believing what is out there is either entirely irrelevant to your life, or so complicated that it would go right over your head if you made an attempt to understand it’.”
Isn’t it the wall in the head that art is trying to reach? The ideas or understandings about the world that we feel are so complicated or irrelevant that we don’t consider them, we wall ourselves off from them? Isn’t it the role of the artist to bring these ideas and understandings to life; to use a created language to burst through the wall and force a moment of understanding and relevance? And, isn’t it the role of the artist to help identify the walls in the heads of others and work to break them down so as to make room for these others in the larger conversation?
My own wall in the head at present is my feeling I won’t be able to figure out what wall I want to break down in my new city/community. That the cues will “go right over” my head and I won’t be able to create. If I am right that the “role of the artist is to use a created language to burst through the wall” then what created language can I use to burst through my own wall?