The Other Fear

Sylvette Babin

The Other Fear
By Sylvette Babin

From the thoughts shared by authors and artists alike, it’s hard not to notice how widespread fear is in our lives. The publication of this second issue on the theme of fear allows us to further examine the vast expanse of human anxieties. Designed as a diptych, the issues graphically mirror and complement one another (beginning with the reversed translation of the word on the covers) with texts and images that explore fear in various social and emotional manifestations through a vast array of artistic mediums. Aside from film and video (more readily associated with the theme), painting, installation, performance and web art have been addressed in both issues.

Of all the fears that overwhelm us—death being the ultimate one—fear of the other seems the most common. It is at least the most worrying, judging by the multiplicity of conflicts that stem from it. It’s an insidious fear, often based on ignorance, that hits us at our most vulnerable—cultural identity, for example—and that finds social justification in collectively acknowledging some sort of “threat.” Fear of the other is increasingly accepted, even encouraged as a normal attitude towards otherness. In such a context it’s not surprising that fear of the other is mentioned in most of the essays published in this issue. Thus, strangeness is evoked as an artistic means of disruption (Albano); fear as well as citizens’ and artists’ reactions to it are observed in various political and economical contexts (Llevat Soy, Krpic); the doctoring of information to create panic situations and the role of the media in fabricating fear are also analysed (Cramerotti, Paris). On the latter, the notion of “creative propaganda” suggests that fear campaigns are not the prerogative of the media or of power structures but that they are also used as means of persuasion by organisations involved in “noble” causes.

But fear is not solely political, writes André-Louis Paré, it also has to do with our being-together. The fear of death and of the everyday, the difficulty of life in society, and the fear of difference or the fear of rejection for one’s own singularity are some of the affects that artists explore in these pages. Moreover, whereas most of the essays deal with various attitudes of mistrust against the Other, Alberto Aceti expresses with a wry sense of humour his own fear that religious fundamentalisms might become obstacles to freedom of expression. His position certainly has the potential to rekindle the debate on intolerance but it also reminds us that embracing the other is not just a nice theory. The almost clichéd example of reasonable accommodations in Quebec shows us that the much needed recognition and respect of differences requires first and foremost the ability to recognise one’s self in order to defeat the fear of loosing one’s identity. From all of this, let’s remember how important encounter and presence are in bringing down the culture of fear. Being-together not only opposes isolation and the formation of media fed opinions, it also gives us the opportunity to learn directly about and from the other.

[Translated from the French by Colette Tougas]

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