Someone sent me this quiz via facebook, and as the friend himself said, he’s usually not into this sort of thing, but this one got him thinking. It also helps that he’s a trained visual artist. But he sent me the quiz, and, it did get me thinking, and so I thought I’d post on it here. Being primarily a writer of nonfiction, my take on the visual arts will necessarily be a bit different from that of a visual artist, but that’s part of the fun.
My take is very much coloured by the fact that I am an historian of western civilization, who has been trained to see art history as one of several highly interrelated cultural, political, social, and economic threads which run through both western history, and, at the same time, of course, through global history, with the understanding that all of these are in dialogue, i.e., they are affecting each other dialectically at all times–though in some ways more than others, and more at some times than others.
It’s also very much coloured by an awareness of what I consider to be the ‘great divide’ in western cultural history – namely, before and after Dada-ism became prominent right around World War I. My take on Dada, as outlined elsewhere on this blog, is that it was attempting to grapple with the discovery of the subconscious by Freud, the relativity of time and space as articulated by Einstein, and the sense that species were not absolute and immutable, as Darwin had implied. All of these, artists saw, seemed to imply that there was in fact no truth to the notion of a Platonic ideal, of the kind which had underlay all western art since the middle ages. In other words, there seemed to be no absolute at all, of any kind: no Truth, no Beauty, no Good, and thus, there was nothing which had created and could anchor such ideals, namely, God. If God was dead, as Neitzsche had argued, then there could be no point in attempting to do art which followed the ideals which God had supposedly (according to Plotinus, and the Christian theology which followed him, and all renaissance and enlightenment thinkers who followed the Christians for the most part) laid out when he created the universe. (more…)
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