Friday, March 29, 2013

L'Art Pour L'Art Pour L'Art

Have you ever wondered why you like to listen to music, read books, watch movies and even are willing to wait for hours in a queue just to see an art exhibition?

L'Empire Des Lumières # 1

I know very well how wonderful it feels to be creative and I guess so do you (unless you are one of those artists/people with creative hobbies who are at their creative best when feeling depressed).

L’Art Pour L’Art Pour L’Art #4

But what about the other side of the coin?  The viewer's or listener's side. What do we get from looking at the "Mona Lisa", listening to "Bohemien Rapsody", reading "The Da Vinci Code" or watching "Avatar"? Why do we appreciate and consume art? 

L’Art Pour L’Art Pour L’Art #6

Bono, frontman of Irish rock band U2 once said that "the job of art is to chase away ugliness". Nice words - but if that was really the role of art, how can we explain the fact that seemingly "ugly" paintings like e.g. those by Jackson Pollock can be worth millions of dollars to galleries (while in the view of an interested buyer only five, as was the story of a woman who actually bought a Pollock that was mistakenly priced five dollars)?

And what about Munch's "The Scream" and the late works of Pablo Picasso Is this really art that chases ugliness away? 

L’Art Pour L’Art Pour L’Art #1

According to American neuropsychiatrist and Nobel Prize laureate Eric Kandel, the Vienna School of Art History in the 1930s emphasised that the function of the modern artist was not to convey beauty, but to convey new truths.

Kandel, Eric: "The Age of Insight: The Quest to Understand the Unconscious in Art, Mind, and Brain, from Vienna 1900 to the Present", The Random House, New York, 2012).

L’Art Pour L’Art Pour L’Art #3

What exactly these truths are, depends to a large part on the beholder, the reader, the listener.  And that is you.  Experiments have also shown that these truths - your reactions to a work of art - are influenced by what you are told about it.  In other words:  You are more likely to respond positively when you are told a painting is a genuine work by Rembrandt, even if it is not (read more about this here).

Merci De Faire Ma Chambre

This digression still does not answer the question of why we like and consume art, and why we choose to decorate the rooms of our apartments with paintings.

L’Art Pour L’Art Pour L’Art #2

In his blog post "Why do we appreciate art?", Surya Ramkumar says that while enjoying a work of art, we lose ourselves in a tiny self created world, where there is just us and the work before us.  I agree, and I would add that this self created world is either somebody else's reality or my own.  I consider this apparently trivial addition important because in the first case I am looking at another's reality for distraction whereas in the second case I introspect and want to intensify a certain positive or negative emotion that I am currently under.

 Towers Tour The Louvre

Therefore it seems to me that the main reason why we like art is because it helps us escape our reality. Or gets us to really dive into it.

Monday, March 11, 2013

That Was One Small Step For A Man ?

Heimlicher Atomtest

In "The Change Book",  authors Mikael Krogerus and Roman Tschäppeler identify six dictatorships in the so-called "free world" which should be toppled. One of these is the "dictatorship of breaking news". They claim that if a piece of news was really so important then we would hear about it sooner or later anyway.  Instead, we should draw our attention to what is overlooked.  I couldn' t agree more.  I feel like I am permanently exposed to a cacophony of information, most of all in my mailbox - the "real" and the electronic one.

I consider myself a person who by nature is not very interested in breaking news, for the reasons that Messrs Krogerus and Tschäppeler outlined above.  However, every now and then there comes that certain "one in one thousand" headline that manages to catch even my attention... 

 Baba, Papa
On 28 February 2013 A.D. pope Benedict XVI resigned, aged 85. The last pope to do so was Celestine V in 1294.  If you are not a Roman-Catholic you probably couldn't care less.  But if you are like me someone who can best be categorised somewhere between pious church-goer and christened atheist, you might have wondered during the last weeks what the implications of this development are and whether you need to adjust your world view a bit.

That Was One Small Step For A Man ?

Some say that Benedikt XVI (now - again - Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger) was forced to resign.  If that really was the case, I do not think that we would ever know.  Assuming it is not the case, I congratulate Mr. Ratzinger for having taken this bold stepMore people should have the courage to do what they know is the right thing to do even if their society tells them otherwise

Primary Colours 

But what about those things which some societies approve of while others - alongside the church - resent?  Who can give the unequivocal verdict on what is really ethically correct or morally wrong?

Some Things Are Almost Indestructible

What about fun things which some priests are trying to make us feel bad aboutWhat is really so wrong about heavy metal, premarital sex, or a good joke about god?  

La Décadence Aux Tours De Notre Dame

And are they practicing what they preach?  The ones who do must be super-humans.

Shortsighted In The Church

In religious discussions I like to bring the example of the indigenous man living in a jungle somewhere on this planet.  All of his life he does his best to be a reliable partner, a caring father and a responsible member of his tribe.  He also shows great respect for natureHowever, when he dies will he fail the test at the gates of heaven because he does not know who Jesus is? 

 Notrenotre Damedame

If there is a god then He will judge us by our behaviour towards others and towards nature rather than by our religious rituals I would hope.  He would certainly also apply this rule of judgement to a man who some humans had called their "pope" for a few years.  Was this also what the man formerly known as Benedikt XVI was thinking when he decided to step down instead of completing a questionable religious duty which foresees retirement only via death?  If yes, then Mr. Ratzinger's move would symbolise a modernised Catholic church that I could identify with, one I would be proud to be a member of.  Then - from my perspective - Benedikt XVI's resignation would have been much more than just one small step for a man.