Song and dance are synonymous with human joy, we all enjoy sketching or scribbling, we love colour and sigh with happiness with the first blossoms of spring. So we are all capable of creating art, why then has art become a multimillion dollar industry where artists are frequently lowly paid and a large infrastructure such as galleries are incredibly wealthy? Two reasons: capitalism and Europe. Capitalists have their nasty hand upon the means of art production namely the output of artists and the Europeans have historically ensured the most mediocre art is most admired.
To explore the culture of the world and Europe’s place in it, let’s extend back in time. The world’s oldest cultures, namely China and India, followed by Mesopotamia and Egypt expanded their extraordinary culture over millenniums.
Finally a cultural fart seeped from all this cultural wealth into ancient Greece, and then to what is best described as a cultural excreteria of the Roman Empire. While highly successful imperialist, and excellent engineers, the Roman addition to international culture is sadly the concept of deifying dead emperors into gods, even the odd Roman horse was extended this honour.
Regrettably this unfortunate habit was picked up by a small Semitic tribe who became the founders of the Christian religion. Jesus, a decent fellow would probably have been horrified at his later deification by his faithful followers, firstly because it was a Roman concept and it was these militarists who ended his life. Also he didn’t appear to be the sort of man who wanted to join the pantheon of ex Roman emperors and horses who behaved very badly to the earliest Christians.
The Christian process of deification did not stop with Jesus. His celestial father, depicted in late European paintings as a white bearded old fellow with lightening bolts flashing from his fingers was of course listed as a god. A strange fellow know as the Holy Ghost also made the list. Mary naturally as a woman was not advanced to goddom and her husband Joseph, father of Jesus was downgraded to the list of cuckold. Clearly this was a family in desperate need of the Family Courts!
Anyway Rome fell and the Dark Ages of the Europe under the grizzly auspice to the Roman Catholic Church commenced hundreds of years of artlessness in Europe. Out of this very lowly culture of religion and blessed virgins, Europe emerged but came to a rather alarming conclusion the culture belonged to them, Greece had started history and whatever happen in Europe was bigger better etc….
So let us now inspect the European contribution to artlessness.
Paintings are illustrative ... two dimensional slashes of paint depicting a hill or palace or some such thing. To understand the naivety of such work, first select some local landscape painting in your town’s gallery, perhaps even take o quick photo of it with your mobile phone. Next travel off to the site. Look at the view now in three dimensions, and movement as breeze tussles the grasses, subtle sounds, the flight of birds and their call, the smells of nature. Now check to copy of the painting on your mobile phone ... nothing more than two static dimensions of paint ... why bother.
Portraits of dignitaries abound in Europe ... thousands of kings, princes, bishops, popes even the odd queen, plus plenty of grey male prime ministers. Such portraits are in effect like shrivelled glaced fruit strewn across sticky white icing, smothering all our personal histories making up the grand picture of human endeavour. Nigglingly ugly paintings of the powerful ... off with their heads much better!
Perhaps the most ridiculous of European art is the still life ... a bowl of fruit, a dead and bloody pheasant upon a table ... very, very infantile and silly stuff.
Running out of cultural grunt and seeking new forms of capitalist expansion, Europe embraced modern art. There are of course some advantages, cubism and multi-dimensional paintings could be hung in four different ways. Just think of Blue Polls. Better out come for gallery coffers.
In relation to music and dance, Europe always struts its stuff … ballet, opera and so on. But let’s again look at the history of sound and movement. The East from India across the Middle East developed their music using melody ... an intricacy of musical notes. Africa developed rhythm ... that passionate pulsing of notes. The Europeans developed harmony ... namely the repetition of basic notes, the sort of big band sound. In effect if your music has no beat or rhythm or splendid scales of tune you end up with harmony merely, a runting of sounds.
Europeans with endless violins, trumpets etc. blasted out continuous harmony and frequently expanded these musical episodes to hours in length. No wonder audiences close their eyes, pretending to enjoy but most probably sleep!
Opera, oh dear we have not only long musical performances but appalling squarking from singers. It is rather absurd to train poor people to stretch their sounds into realms of unenjoyable extreme. Regrettably patrons of opera can not drop of to a restless sleep as occasionally a mighty big busted soprano or tenor could pitch out a truly awful howl possibly representing a death and poor patrons could make an awful leap of fear from an uncomfortable seat.
Operas generally have a silly and trite story and European ballet is similarly bound. Frequently dying swans or flying pigs are subject matter of such offerings. Interestingly women are expected to dance on their toes, the blokes do not. This toe dancing can cause considerable damage to a dancer’s feet in later life. In effect the toe dancing of ballet while rungs below Chinese foot binding, is there on the ladder of female mutilation. Hopefully mothers might stop sending daughters off to Saturday Ballet classes and dispatch them to sport!
The best thing that could be said about European culture is that big band, opera and ballet do employ a large number of people and is therefore good for musicians who are frequently in casual employment. And hopefully with long performances, they are paid by the hour!
*Josephine Zananiri lives in the Independent electorate of Indi in Germantown Vic and currently works in the manual labour arena tending native and exotic trees, so has plenty of time to think. Followed everywhere by her two dogs Percy and Fino who generally agree on all subjects, only occasionally deserting the conversation in the chase for samba deer! Slight differences in logic can therefore be attributed to the two woofers leaving their critical post!