Paris post-war: Art and existentialism 1945-55

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War with all its horrors is only an instance of what we are, caught inextricably in the cogs of a diabolical machination. The real world with its shock logic harries us towards disaster. The artist, in his work, tries to rid himself of this oppression. Art is transformed into politics, love into commerce, education into an instrument of order and asphyxia. It is clear that only my dream can survive in this hideousness. But how do the others live? The village looks to its protection but there is no protection against a man

aware, even unconsciously, of his wretchedness, for it is the wretchedness of all. Death itself is unavailing. Admire this phenomenon.

From Some Sayings of Bram van Velde by Samuel Beckett, Transition '49 (Paris No 5, 1949)

Paris Post War: Art and Existentialism 1945-55 at the Tate Gallery until 5 September.

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