Friday, October 28, 2005

the cheapening of greatness

A bumper sticker or t-shirt seems to be the wrong place for a great quote or a Bible verse. It seems to cheapen and commoditize whatever it was it was saying, or surn it into a slogan.

While at first I thought it was neat to put music on a cell phone ring, it seems to only make you annoyed or tired of the song, not to mention the degrading process of converting an orchestra into carefully arranged beeps.

The medium isn't the message, but it surely affects the message.

For all the great good it has done, modern publishing and communication technology has enabled us to take everything out of context, be it a soundclip and image or a conversation.

John Berger has this to say in Ways of Seeing(thank God for university libraries):

"The uniqueness of every painting was once a part of the place where it resided. Sometimes the painting was transportable. But it could never be seen in two places at the same time. When the camera reproduces a painting, it destroys the uniqueness of it's image. As a result it's meaning changes. Or, more exactly, it's meaning multiplies and fragments into many meanings.

This is vivedly illustrated by what happens when a painting is shown on a television screen. The painting enters each viewers house. There it is surrounded by his wallpaper, his furniture, his mementoes. It enters the atmosphere of his family. It becomes their talking point. It lends its meaning to their meaning. At the same time it enters a million other houses and, in each of them, is seen in a different context. Because of the camera, the painting now travels to the spectator rather than the spectator to the painting. In it's travels, it's meaning is diversified."

I don't quite agree with everything, but he has some good points. I used to wonder why such a big deal was made about original paintings as opposed to reproductions, and to be sure some of the it is merely mystique, but not all. I am thankful though, for this technology, because I have seen almost no original art.


Blogger Varun said...

I guess its human nature to cherish only rare items and not common ones which are easily available. So we will never cherish the images which we have with ourselves, only when we travel far to its location to see it makes us understand its true meaning.

10/30/2005 6:10 PM  
Blogger OMWO said...

The ability to do good reproductions is a blessing that allows most of mankind to enjoy art that would otherwise be confined to a select few. This in turn allows many people to develop their abilities in art, and give back to the world.

But there is nothing wrong in being mindful of even a blessing's shortcomings:

A reproduction of a painting - even of a drawing! - loses much of its original character. There is no doubt about this once you've seen them both.

Much more serious it that the needs of reproduction have constrained many artists - this is especially true of illustrators - to mould their expression to the limiting demands of the printmaker in his many forms. Vernon Blake talks of this at length in his bookd "the art and craft of drawing".

The same is true of music. Try hearing a good recording of chamber music and then actually being there while it's played...

On the other hand, dancing within the limits sometimes becomes a whole new and interesting form of expression, and sometimes a recording/reproduction really allows you to hear/see something that you would miss otherwise, since in fact a recording/reproduction is already an interpretation through someone else's brain, and if that brain is interesting, that might be good.

Even Blake's objections are, I think, mostly avoided as long as the initial years of the art student are not constrained by the needs of reproduction, and only later, fully formed (as much as one is ever fully-formed) does he allow himself to play the more specialized, more constrained games of reproduction-oriented art, which may at that time be an interesting variation and not a hindrance to expression.

11/12/2005 7:10 AM  
Blogger Stejahen said...

Good thoughts, both of you.
Omwo, sounds like a good book, I'll have to check it out sometime.

11/12/2005 11:30 PM  

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