Monday, May 25, 2009

Continuities & Manifestations

My college Art History courses have had a huge influence on my worldview, maybe as great as that of Latin and Catholicism....all three of which tend to run together for me, a citizen of the West. (for more on this: Education & All That)

My wife's an Art Historian (pure coincidence) and teaches college-level Art & Architectural History. Today we were discussing how in our lifetimes the emphases of Art & Architectural History have ebbed and flowed: history, context, culture, technique, original understanding, current theories, the artist's understanding, you name it. Our essential conclusion, which is hardly unique, is that art is best accessed through an understanding of the culture(s) which produced it and/or valued it. (Let me observe that an awful lot of piffle has been generated in the name of Understanding Art....caveat emptor.)

In some other posts I've looked at how non-material things exist in continuity with physical things: Energy and Matter, Soul and Body, Faith and Works. Expanding on Einstein, in each case the physical is a manifestation of the non-physical. There is a continuity between the two, but we are unable to perceive it. Thus, like the blind men feeling the elephant, we ascribe separateness to things which are not separate, due to our limits of perception. Yet to fully understand anything whose existence lies in both realms requires an awareness of both.

So it is with Art, Architecture, Music, etc.: they are physical manifestations of invisible culture. Culture itself is's only measurable by humans through the things people do or make. I might describe the spiritual component of culture as the collective soul of a group of people. As the Body is the manifestation of an individual Soul in spacetime, likewise is Art the manifestation of a people's soul, mediated through its individual artists.

In experiencing Art, try to perceive the continuous whole: the physical artifact; the mediator/artist; and the collective soul that it makes visible.