Saturday, January 14, 2006

Thinking and Culture

Albion's Seedlings has a fascinating review of the differences in how Western and Eastern societies perceive and evaluate things. Alphabets, spy planes, and tigers make it into the discussion of Richard E. Nesbitt's The Geography of Thought.


Jerub-Baal said...

Thanks for the link, it's a great post. Some things I would have said, except Dean Esmay's blog is currently not accepting new commentors (commentators?), and these are also in my post on my blog...

A couple of notes, in my opinion Mr. Esmay is not correct in saying that Dada "showed its greatest contempt" in Marcel Duchamp's "Fountain." Another Duchamp piece holds that position, LHOOQ. The following description is from Wikipedia (in its listing on the Mona Lisa):

"The avant-garde art world has also taken note of the undeniable fact of the Mona Lisa's popularity. Because of the painting's overwhelming stature, Dadaists and Surrealists often produce modifications and caricatures. In 1919, Marcel Duchamp, one of the most influential Dadaists, made a Mona Lisa parody by adorning a cheap reproduction with a moustache and a goatee, as well as adding the rude inscription LHOOQ, when read out loud in French sounds like "Elle a chaud au cul" (translating to "she has a hot arse" as a manner of implying the woman in the painting is in a state of sexual excitement and availability). This was intended as a Freudian joke, referring to Leonardo's alleged homosexuality. According to Rhonda R. Shearer, the apparent reproduction is in fact a copy partly modeled on Duchamp's own face."

LHOOQ shows Dada's contempt not just for the art viewer and the art world of the time, but for art as history and tradition.

Another thing to note, Dada came from the Post-Great War era, where nihilism and cynicism were central in European thought, especially in the Arts and the intelligentsia. This nihilism and its concomitant apathy were part of the cultural forces that allowed (and overlooked) the rise of Fascism in Europe.

Considering some of the strains of current culture, and the historical forces at work in world politics, the history and results of Dada and its times worth studying today.

Matt Andrade

Jerub-Baal said...

This is embarrasing, I printed out the essay you refered too, "Nisbett - Geography of Thought" and Dean Esmay's essay "Art's in the Eye of the Beholder, BUT..." at the same time, then read them and came back here to comment on the wrong one. I can't figure out how to delete the comment.

How (unintentionally) rude. I shall understand if I am eternally banished from commenting.

Matt Andrade

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Well, I was puzzled, but also found it interesting.

I don't banish folks for stuff like that. You can make up for it by making an intelligent comment about the actual link.

C'mon, I dare ya.

Jerub-Baal said...

Boy, I wish I could pop this to the top of the comments, and then maybe everyone would miss my earlier gaff.

Having read through "Geography of Thought", though I have no particular experience in this, the conclusions are not particularly surprising. As an artist I am naturally very interested in how perception works. One thing that I have always wondered is how people with non-European languages process images. We read from left to right, top to bottom. Naturally this frames how we perceive an image, and how our eyes move through an image, even what we perceive as 'movement.' Thing about it, in a photo of a moving car, seen from the side, it will appear to be faster if it is pointing to the right (even if you use the same image and just 'mirror' it)

A practical application of this in the print industry is in ad costs. An ad in the upper left corner of the left page in a magazine is the most expensive, as it is the 'beginning' or most important part visually. On the other hand, the lower left corner, being neither beginning nor end, and low on the page, is the least expensive ad space. This level of perception is entirely cultural. For someone whose language is read right to left, or top to bottom this method of assigning importance is meaningless. Language is the core of thought, and how language works in practice cannot help but have a foundational effect on how we perceive the world.