Monday, March 2, 2009

traveling thoughts

In the mid-eighties I spent more than a month traveling through parts of China. It was quite an eye-opening experience for a white mid-west middle-class suburban American young man to have. Exposed to a whole different kind of life.

China has a long and rich history. However, what I saw was the effect of decades of Communism. What struck me most was the absence of aesthetics. Everything was utilitarian. Nothing seemed made with love or caring. It felt like a defeated place. Only some subtle hints from the people I met gave me hope that every spark had not been stamped out by the Cultural Revolution.

I've wondered at times since what life would be like without art or artists. Imagine humans without an aesthetic gene. Bleak.

Maybe art IS the hot spark of humanity. What makes us human rather than animal.

Weird Monday morning musings. OK, back to work!


Lily Cate said...

Wow, that's what I've been thinking for years.
Other creatures have tools, language, societal structure and rules, even song and dance, to some degree.
They only thing we really have is the ability to describe our environment and experience abstractly- through art and storytelling.
I think seeing American petroglyphs and aboriginal Australian's paintings of Dream Time got me started on this idea.

And the starkness of communist China- I get the same thoughts when I see pictures from the USSR. Reminds me of a ceramics instructor from college who spent a whole semester trying to teach us snobby fine art majors that "decorative" was not a dirty word.

Anonymous said...

I think we have another thing: the ability to be kind. Though that ability could very well arise from our ability to describe our experience.