homunculus |həˈmə ng kyələs; hō-|noun ( pl. -li |-ˌlī| or -les |-ˌlēz|)
a very small human or humanoid creature.
ORIGIN mid 17th cent.: from Latin, diminutive of homo, homin- ‘man.’
This term came into focus when I visited a gallery in Madrid 7 years ago and encountered an emotionally charged work by Manolo Millares, one of the most important artists of Informalismo/ Arte Povera. After World War II, destruction and decay made its presence felt in society and therefore in art. Europe was shattered, and Art forced to record and reflect the horrors of the WWII. The homunculus, a symbol of degraded human body, is seen as an icon of suffering in Spain, torn apart by civil war. Manolo Millares paintings speaks of degradation of the human being. His work is a metaphor for the irrationality and cruelty of the human condition.
“When you compare life in Libya and the sea journey, you take your chance on the sea journey. If you die at sea, then so be it.” Fedussa, 20
“It was a horrific sight, people desperately clinging to life belts, boats, and anything they could, fighting for their lives, amidst people drowning, and those who had already died,”
Juan Matias, rescue co-ordinator, Italy
I feel, 70 years after the Wars, the ‘homunculus’ needs to appear again. This time artists need to reflect on the state of the human ..a body ravaged by rape, torture, starvation and sickness, the result of modern day conflicts rising from religious wars and racial persecution. Can the human body and spirit survive given the tough choices between immediate and eventual death? Many consider themselves lucky and fortunate to survive and live a lifetime in refugee camps and tents with no promise of a better future.
Countries like Britain and France who have strived hard to achieve balance in structure and accountability are now faced with this major humanitarian crisis and finding it difficult to maintain equanimity between the economics and the ‘human’ aspect of the migrant crisis.
Modern times are becoming characterised by a growing deep chasm between the developed and undeveloped countries of the world. Can Art bridge that gap?