Monday, November 27, 2006

Art and Instinct

Accurate depiction of the human face depends upon an in-depth understanding of the complexes inter workings of the underlying bones, muscles, and fatty tissue which comprise the face, and collectively composed all aspects of the human expression. As we learn in the study of art, understanding the object and seeing the object are not one in the same, and it is often the latter that yelds to the former in a Neo-classical pursuit of perfection through a standardized ratio of proportions. In short; expressionism is lost to perfectionism, naturalism is lost to verism, and the portrait is lost all together.

Victim: Analysis of Susan Minot’s “Lust”

The depraved behavior of delinquent, adolescent girls has been a cultural fascination for years. From Freud’s studies of the female malady to Nikki Reed‘s film depiction of teenage girls in the movie Thirteen. Behavior reported to be so debase it has become an integral part of our cultural mythos. Susan Minot’s “Lust” is a startling, real life example of wanton behavior in teenage girls. What disturbs me most in reading “Lust” is not its protagonist’s actions but their reflection of a pervasive cultural phenomenon; that is the propensity of young women victimizing themselves to their own emotional impulses.

In the instance of Minot’s protagonist, she victimizes herself to her our sexual impulses. In essence victimizing herself to her male counter parts. In the early part of the twentieth century this must have been rooted in women’s dependence on men. What is strange to me is that we see an insurgence in this kind of behavior from women directly after their emancipation. No longer politically forced to depend on men, girls continue to perpetuate emotional dependence on members of the opposite sex. Evaluating one another on what is in essence the possession of a mate.

Throughout “Lust” there is continued reference to peer pressure. Minot provides this paragraph, which is given in the first person (as is the rest of the story), as though in explanation of her actions. "I thought the worst thing anyone could call you was a cock-teaser. So, if you flirted, you had to be prepared to go through with it. Sleeping with someone was perfectly normal once you had done it (285)."

This is an excellent example of an antiquated way of thinking, which sadly persists among young girls in our culture to this day. It distresses me to see girls in the twenty-first century who perpetuate this form of self-victimization. Minot’s protagonist constantly employs words like “lust” and “sex” but continuously refuses to take responsibility for herself as a sexual being throughout the narrative.

Consciously or subconsciously she victimizes herself to her own desires. It is apparent in her narrative that the protagonist instigates relations with men, then in the aftermath feels somehow cheated, yet she refuses to initiate change on her own behalf, continuing to play victim to her repetitive behavior.
You do everything they want. "Then comes after. After when they don’t look at you. They scratch their balls, stare at the ceiling… You’re gone. Their blank look tells you that the girl they were fucking is not there anymore. You seem to have disappeared (288)."

With this paragraph Minot closes her story of debauchery. There is something unsettling about these last few sentences. The paragraph concludes the narrative seemingly without resolution, leaving the reader to assume the protagonist’s resignation to her continual self-victimization.

Though “Lust” was published in 1984 Minot’s story underlines the alarming behavior of young girls to this day. “Lust” acts almost as a window into the minds of many adolescent girls, as we follow Minot from her first sexual experience to her own feelings of dissatisfaction and debasement.

What should be viewed as alarming is not the actions of girls of Minot’s generation, or the generation of girls entering their adolescence today, but that Minot’s generation in the aftermath of their reckless youth and the psychological ramifications thereof, become the mothers of the girls now entering their adolescence today. These girls will continue to perpetuate their victimization to their own sexual impulses upon one another, to what greater social ramifications are uncertain.

Understanding Ourselves: Through Study of the Ancient World

Ancient Greece has inspired artists, writers, painters, sculptors, actors, musicians, poets, play writes, philosophers, and even sociologist for centuries. Ancient Greek tragedy inspired Shakespeare in his own play writing. The Greek conception of democracy created the groundwork upon which our country rests. Greek art and thought is arguably, as Simon Goldhill makes the case in his book, Love, Sex, and Tragedy, the foundation of Western Culture. The author states in his brief introduction: “To speak of culture in the modern West is to speak of Greek (1).” A thesis Goldhill supports well throughout his relatively short book. The evidence he provides is almost overwhelming; mathematics, democracy, science, philosophy, sociology all have their roots in ancient Greece. What is the importance of such facts? What are the implications of this to the modern individual?

It is the idea that the assertion of the individual is based on a comprehensive understanding of the past, and it’s implication on the world as a whole. We are living in a time, Goldhill insists, that demands a comprehensive cultural understanding of identity, which he believes can be gained through conclusive study of early Western civilization; namely Greece. Citizens of the modern West can see Greek influence is not only present in science, ligature, politics, mathematics, and theater, but it is also in our everyday lives, most obviously in our architecture. Much in the same way our founding fathers built the constitution, and our country, around Greek ideals of democracy, so too did they constructed the very buildings, which house these ideals under principals of Greek design. You do not have to live in Washington however to see the pervasive influence of classical style upon our nation. You can see it in the pillars on a bank or courthouse, and most obviously in statuary, and relief work. These are just a few examples.

Neo-Classical art surrounds us every day, in sculpture, and in the visual arts, so much so we probable don’t even recognize it. If we were conscious of it, we would see its influence in advertising of all forms: magazines, books, television, billboards, movies, and on the web. Most importantly, we would see its influence on the way we view and evaluate the human form. Polykleitos's canon of proportions still defines much of the way we portray the ideal male form today. Our modern image of the strong, youthful, and athletic male has hardly changed in the last three thousand years, from the early Greek depictions of the Kouros. Why then is the depiction of Venus seen as so sensual and erotic to a society, which has abandoned the Greek representation of the female form for a skinnier, more muscular, arguably less effeminate model? More importantly, and more generally, why are the images that were created more then 2,000 years ago so powerful to the modern view?

Before reaching a conclusion on these questions, let us explore some other Greek contributions to Western culture, which may help to explain the impact of art Greek art on the modern individual, namely science and history. The Greek enlightenment – the birth of objective study and subsequently the d isciplines of mathematics, history, medicine, astrology, and other related disciplines. The enlightenment represented a historic shift away from superstition, and toward a factual understanding of the physical world. Simon Goldhill quotes one Greek scientist as saying:“What I offer is a true picture of the world scientifically observed and described. I tell you how the physical world works. Those who old stories about how things came into being are just myths (312).”

In the over three thousand since the discipline of scientific study emerged in Greece, science itself has made great technological advancements. Enhancing our understanding of the physical world around us, mans’ evolution and later development, as well as the universe outside our own solar system. Yet in the twenty-first century, we still cling to cultural and religious mythos, which contradict our understanding of science.

One of the most commonly seen examples of this is in Christianity, which clings to “literal interpretation of the Bible…as the word of God” while being perpetually disproved, again and again, by overwhelming scientific evidence. Martin Luther was once quoted as saying: “Reason is the greatest antagonist of faith.” It might well be argued today that myth and belief in the supernatural is the greatest antagonist to science.

What should be question is not the validity of these myths, but why, since prehistory, has man been spurred to create these fantastic narratives, and why in the twenty-first century, post Greek enlightenment, are we personally propelled and stirred by what are referred to as “just myths.” Why do we, as a people, return again and again to these so-called “myths” for personal guidance and a sense of cultural and religions identification? In the subconscious of the modern individual lingers the need for a grander, personal, more powerful explanation for existence, which is fulfilled by our culturally condoned mythos.

What is it that these myths fulfill in us? Why are we attracted to the supernatural over what we recognize to be scientific fact? I would argue that though the supernatural bares no resemblance to reality, or the natural world as we are aware of it, but rather depends on recognizable patterns in human behavior and characteristics found all over the world. The Greeks reconized this, and it’s potential for metaphor. Greek myth creates a world in which the Greek play writes could explore the many facetted characteristics of man in both an intellectual and visual sense. Centaurs are an excellent example of this. Half man, half beast, the centaur represented to the Greeks the duality of mans’ nature. To summarize the necessity for myth in the modern and ancient world, is to say that myth is mans’ exploration of the human experience through metaphor.

While a chronological history of the ancient world may help us understand the world around us, it furthers our understanding of the private interior world of the individual little. Greek theater and myth has gone a long way in furthering our modern understanding of sociology. When we speak of an individual as being narcissistic, we are drawing upon our cultural understanding of the Greek myth, much in the same way the later Western sociology and philosophy draws upon similar Greek archetypes. Sigmund Freud drew upon the story of Oedipus in his study of sexuality, when he made the bold proclamation that all male children unconsciously desire to bed their mother. The German philosopher and classical scholar Friedrich Nietzsche wrote about the human soul as being divided into two parts; the Dionysian and the Apollian, based upon the Greek gods Apollo and Dionysos. If Greek scientific study laid the groundwork for modern medicine, then I would argue that Greek tragedy became the foundation of modern psychology.

Perhaps it is the way in which Greek myths have come to represent the underlying faults, human foibles, tragic flaws, heroic aspirations, romantic love, subconscious desires, jealousy, and a myriad of other aspects and characteristics of the human being, that make Ancient Greek depictions of these myths so powerful today. It is the essential idea that is embodied by Greek art of the essential human experience. Greek art is at the core of our being, as citizens of the Western World. It defines so much of our understanding of our intellectually and materially weather we are aware of it or not, and makes the understanding and study of Greek art integral to our self-awareness.

Goldhill, Simon, Pro. Love, Sex & Tragedy: How the Ancient World Shapes Our Lives.
London: John Murray. 2004. p. 1. 312

Punk Renaissance anyone?

While I obviously enjoy bands like the Dead Kennedys, and the Sex Pistols, I am disappointed to hear so many bands simply (as I see it) rehashing the sound of the early American punk movement. We (those actively involved in punk music) are all clearly drawn to that sound - loud, brutal, aggressive, and angst riddled- or we would not be compelled to create punk rock ourselves. But it's my view that in-order to see a strong revival of the punk music and ideology in the twenty-first century we as a collective must re-invent punk music. Punk music must begin to actively search for new ways to address the issues and changes that have emerged in the last twenty plus years: global warming, the rising cost of living and education to name a few. The political climate in American today, with the war in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the looming threat of a nuclear arms race with Korea, is ripe for a renaissance of punk music and ideology. Already we see punk bands like Anti-Flag gaining recognition in popular culture, while maintaining their highly progressive and radically leftist stands on war, globalization, capitalism, and corporate greed. The local scene is giving way to the national need for unity and a common voice for the next generation of disenfranchised and discontented American youth.

About Me

I'm going to call myself GENERATION whY. I enjoy expounding on a verity of different philosophical, political, and social issues. I am not a moderate, and what I say may not always be “politically correct,” I don’t believe that social norms can be challenged without stepping beyond their rigidly defined boundaries. I consider myself a conservative; a word that I believe has become horribly twisted and perverted by the Republican Party in recent years. I feel very strong about the conservation of natural resources, like petroleum, lumber, and water. I have been home schooled all my life and I’m appalled at the products of our Prussian based system of institutionalized “schooling”. I believe that organized religion is flawed by the very idea that personal believes can be organized into all in compassing dogmatic rule. I’m a young female sorely disappointed by the fruits of the feminist movement, and “women’s sexual” liberation. And I'm here to talk about it!