February 8, 2004

"To be an artist means never to avert one's eyes." On this topic of disgust and shock (here, here, here, and here), let me share a passage from the obituary, written by Rick Lyman, for Akira Kurosawa, which is one of the most influential things I've read in my life. This is in the NYT archive from 1998, so I can't link it.
Though he often diverted the conversation when asked about his approach to filmmaking, Mr. Kurosawa frequently described his attitude toward art in similar terms. "To be an artist," he once said, "means never to avert one's eyes."

Mr. Kurosawa also once described a trip he made with his brother, Heigo, through the ruins of Tokyo after a massive earthquake in 1923. More than 140,000 people died in the fires that followed the quake. But as the pair moved through the ruins, Mr. Kurosawa said, his brother insisted that the young Akira look closely at the charred corpses.

"If you shut your eyes to a frightening sight, you end up being frightened," Akira remembered Heigo telling him. "If you look at everything straight on, there is nothing to be afraid of."

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