Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Art and Prophecy

THE ASSASSINATION of John F. Kennedy seemed to the world a cosmic event, as if a lightning bolt struck down the charismatic leader. JFK's unexpected death affected the entire planet-- an alternate history had suddenly been thrust upon us. We've been trying to get back on track since it happened; attempting to find the path we should be on.

Amazing, when looking back at the event, is how a few works of art seemed to forecast that which was to follow. Call it surprising synchronicities in the universe, as if not time, but meaning and event, are the more significant truths.

For instance, the photograph of a young woman grieving over the body of a slain student at Kent State in 1970 was prefigured by James Dean's very similar image of grief over the body of "Plato" in the movie, "Rebel Without a Cause."

Or: Viewing John Ford's 1962 "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" in the context of the JFK assassination is an unsettling experience. Specifically, the flashback at the end of the movie when all is revealed. Remember it? "Think back," John Wayne tells the Jimmy Stewart character as camera mists take us to a flashback within the flashback that is the core narrative.

We're presented with two explanations: the official version, and cold-blooded truth. Illusion and reality. The Liberty Valance character is dispatched with swift efficiency: clinically. The simple mechanical act readjusts the narrative, and history's (the story's) outcome.

John Ford wasn't prophetic, but his art was tuned into the zeitgeist of the moment, in sudden harmony with the changing universe. In such conditions, prophecy takes care of itself.

No comments: