Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘My death has to be different

What use is of art? What is the origin of art?

Is art (esthetics) an expression of a world vision and a hierarchy of values? Is an artist different from art?

Let me extend a few quotes, just to set the tone and provide ideas for the discussion.

The young French author, Emile Zola, arrogantly wrote: “My ideals are my loves and my emotions”

Theophile Gautier wrote: “The most useful part in the house is the toilet.  I believe what are most beautiful in the house have no usefulness whatsoever.”

Pierre-Joseph Proudhon wrote: “The artist is called upon to share in the creation of the social world.  He is to shoot for the perfection of mankind, physically, mentally, and morally.  The glory of an artist is an appreciation of the process for perfecting mankind.”

Plato refused poets political positions on the ground that they are more inclined to passionate emotions than rational thinking.

In the same vein, Rousseau agreed with the prohibition of Switzerland on banning theaters because theater pieces encouraged emotional outburst.

Compare the above statements and positions with Conrad‘s description of the artist in his preface to The Nigger of the Narcissus:

The artist appeals to our capacity for delight and wonder, to the sense of mystery surrounding our lives, to our sense of pity, and beauty and pain…and to the subtle and invincible conviction of solidarity that knits together the loneliness of innumerable hearts, to the solidarity in dreams, in joy, in sorrow, in aspirations, in illusions, in hope, in fear which binds men to each other, the dead to the living and the living to the unborn...”

Do you think that it is getting pretty tedious to carrying on controversial topics or subjects?

In heated debates, we end up cutting short on discussions by labeling them “useless controversial subjects”; meaning “I am not interested any longer in giving further thought on the topic; I have no inclination to read and study and discuss the topic any further; I refuse to taking a position on the matter since I will not get involved; this is not a pragmatic subject and none of my concerns…”

There is this perception that only ignorant people hoard discussions and prevent level-headed persons to participating rationally in the debate.  Thus, when someone gets passionate about a concept or idea or takes firm positions and stands, we relegate the individual into the category of irrational and not serious type.

As if feeling passionate is the sole monopoly of non rational people.

As if a passionate person is basically an artistic kind, isolated in his own subjective world, caring about his own perception of love, emotions, and what is beautiful and right.

We have this perception that only a professional in particular disciplines (meaning earning a living from the profession), has definite, intransigent positions in their topics of interests, methods, techniques, and world views conceived from his unique perspective point.

As mankind evolved and communicated his idea and cultures, spread and disseminated knowledge and varieties of arts, it is normal to admit that many factors came into play to influencing approaches to arts, perspectives, purpose of art, utility and personalization of artistic works.

Thus, trying to taking definite positions on the driving force in enhancing arts cannot be correct, but the discussion is nonetheless interesting and informative

What is the critical influence, the core or origin of artistic impulses? I tend to conjecture that the main catalyst was this drive for individual discrimination from the masses, the common culture, the predominant social environment, and  customs.

My conjecture is that as man evolved, and realized that he is more endowed than the surrounding animals, he got very frustrated that he also is to die like any other animal.

Worse, certain animals lived far longer than he did.  This discovery was not comforting.  “Since we all have to die then, my death has to be different” was the conclusion of mankind.  How different?  This is where imagination and art come into existence.

Art is an individual signature, no matter how it is influenced by external forces, and no matter how society would like to view artistic productions.

It is unfortunate that education systems are cutting down on artistic programs and courses and depriving students and children opportunities to discovering their talents, passions, and potentials.

This professor of something, Denis Dutton, was a speaker at TEDx on the “origin of beauty perception”.  Denis Dutton doesn’t want any of that crap that beauty is “in the eye of the beholder,” or that beauty is a culturally induced characteristics.  Dutton is exclusively for a Darwinian evolutionary theory of beauty.  That art, music and other beautiful things are a core part of human nature with deep evolutionary origins.

Why Dutton refuses to admit that there is not a single cause for human behaviors?  That several main causes should be considered and the interactions of the factors are the most interesting part in a discussion?  Maybe because Dutton loves to be discriminated among famous speakers as the one who vehemently is supporting Darwinian theory of beauty.    Is it just an ego trip to popularizing oneself for a single exotic expert opinion?

As if Dutton never heard of idiosyncratic tendencies among people of different cultures; that researchers have serious trouble controlling idiosyncracies among subjects and have to pre-test questionnaire to make sure that everyone is on the same wavelength comprehending the questions or sorting out subjects according to language, customs, origins, race, age, education…

Dutton wants us to believe that our perception of beauty evolved by genes.  For example, a hand-ax produced a million years ago, since it is symmetrical and shaped as a tear drop, and since it was not used to kill animals or anything, but as a handcrafts to be enjoyed as art, is proof enough that mankind perceived beauty by genetic evolution.  Question:  Have you ever seen a tear drop?  All that I have seen are wet faces and wet eyes! If gravity acting on a drop of water results in a peculiar shape, should we deduce that Gravity was the design theme for our older ancestors?

Can’t a hand-ax came shaped in a form of a tear or rain drop be an extension of mankind imagination?  Isn’t  a tear drop a symbol?  It connote tenderness and compassion and thus, is beautiful. It is proven that exactly symmetrical objects are not necessarily viewed as beautiful; for example no beautiful figure or face is beautiful: It is the slight asymmetry that offer a challenge to focus on a face and finding it beautiful.

Dutton claims that since “beautiful necklaces” were made hundred of thousands years ago then this demonstrate that perception of beauty and fabrication of beautiful objects is a Darwinian evolutionary consequence.  Come again?

That people fabricated necklaces to wear should not be interpreted that they were made to offer as gifts to women:  Men wore necklaces and women fabricated necklaces too; why should art be the monopoly of men?  Different periods other cultures.

Anyway, certain males in animal species know that the bigger and voracious females will devour them as they mate, or very shortly after. They got smart and started offering the female gifts, rich in protein, to nibble upon and save their skin for another around.

What about this hypothesis: “this object  is mine and it has to be distinctive from my neighbors?”  Art is an ego projection that roots our individuality into existing objects, lasting objects, visible to all, attracting attention of the neighbors, rendering them jealous, inciting them to buy our skills.  Mass productions of tools are not considered work of art:  It is the first unit in the production that has an artistic value.

When we buy a mass product, we tend to add a touch of personalized design, even writing our name or signing it is already a tendency to let our product acquire a value-added “work of art” signature.  If not for our ego to be distinctive, no work of art could have been imagined and developed.  Only “recorded” work of arts are appreciated in music, painting, original manuscripts… How many famous interpreters or directors of orchestra, who didn’t publish a work, are known?  How many talented copiers of painting or books are known?  I bet you, for example, if in Picasso’s time there were facilities to mass-copy his masterpieces and that he personally affixed his signature then, these copies would fetch decent prices now.   Just consider these original cards of baseball players!

How this ego evolved?  My conjecture is that as man evolved, and realized that he is more endowed than the surrounding animals, he got very frustrated that he also is to die like any other animal.  Worse, certain animals lived far longer than he did.  This discovery was not comforting.  “Since we all have to die then, my death has to be different” was the conclusion of mankind.  How different?  This is where imagination and art come into existence.

It is interesting to note that civilizations that prohibited individualized tombs or individualized death rituals didn’t produce much of art works.  When a society is organized and educated not give much weight to a corpse then, either the religious institutions fill in the void of after-death myths or take on the charge of the homogeneous rituals.   When individuality is suppressed then, you cannot expect much of art works:  Society is encouraged to engage in the mass production of useful items.  Art is done in total isolation and not exhibited to the public lest public sanctions are ordained.

I am not denying that the perception of beauty is not just an evolutionary feature and there may also exist an intrinsic cause to it.  What rattled me is that Dutton’s mantra of “Darwinian theory of Evolution” does not necessarily lead to any comprehension of the theory.  As far as I know, Darwin spent 20 years describing in details the thousands of samples he collected in his two years voyage around the world before he wrote his voluminous book.   Darwin stated his theory in the last few paragraphs in the book and he didn’t attempt to generalize to mankind mental faculties.  And here you have Dutton stealing the name of Darwin to expose a theory that misinterpret Darwin theory: Dutton is trying to apply the theory to human mental and emotional features by showing samples of a few handmade drawings!  This kind of “expertise” does not “demonstrate” a theory of beauty and it was not convincing.

Are we a handful of ash, dirt, dust…?  Eaten by worms, ants, crows, fishes, and disgusting crawling little creatures…?  Who can claim that the remains of his ancestors have not been displaced, trampled upon, pissed on…?  It is not what is in the tomb that count, it is the tomb, the formal burying-place, a reminder of how much ego we have to design our eternity.




December 2022

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