Making Sense…

“The world today doesn’t make sense, so why should I paint pictures that do?”

– Pablo Picasso

The rate of change in modern life, starting with the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century, has continued to increase. The world began to be filled with more things, coming at a faster and faster rate, and the things themselves became faster and faster (cars, planes, trains…). A simple experience that we now take for granted, looking out the window of a car moving at 60 mph, must have been a revelation when people first started being able to do that. It is a unique way of seeing our reality, unlike any they could have imagined. Another everyday experience is seeing the world from a high place, the top of a skyscraper, from an airplane, etc. People not too long ago had never seen the world through these eyes, in these ways. A lot of the disruption that occurred in the art world around this time was strongly influenced by the realization that how we had been seeing the world for eons was limited and how we had depicted the world in our art was insufficient to depict the new reality.

Our world today is much more complex than 100 years ago, but I wonder whether we have undergone so radical a transformation in how we see things as occurred then? With the power of images and film and special effects, we are overwhelmed with every conceivable way of looking at our reality as well as other realities. It’s hard to imagine having an experience today that would fundamentally change how we think of reality, except perhaps in the inner spiritual world. We’ve exhausted the external world’s ability to amaze us. Maybe this is why more and more people in the world are pursuing a spiritual path.

I’m not sure how, or if, this will affect trends in the art world. There is a long history of combining religious subject matter and art and I’ve seen a lot of contemporary art that has some spiritual content. All of it seems to be a way to represent religious symbols – none of it that I’ve seen represents a different way of perceiving reality along the lines of the transformations that occurred in the art world a hundred years ago. I’d be interested in knowing about such art…

4 responses to “Making Sense…

  1. Oh Bob, i don’t agree at all with some of the things you say here, but it would be much too long and difficult for me to share my thoughts in English.
    Just one thing: the world has not lost anything from its ability to amaze me!!! I witness things like nature, technical advancement, human hearts and souls, with exactly the same amazement as I ever did, or even more perhaps. My ability to be amazed is directly proportional to my openness and curiosity to the external world! And in fact my ability to be amazed by the inner, spiritual world, decreases with my amazement for the external world.
    This is why I don’t believe that this is the reason why always more people pursue the spiritual path. I think they do it because it makes them feel much more important, different from everybody else. I would say that our actual world is marked by the intense desire of each of us to be creative, to be somebody special. It is becoming a world of egocentricity, I believe. And this is why we stop being amazed by the external world, because we simply stop focussing on it…

  2. Miki

    Thanks for the reply – it’s always good to get a strong reaction!

    I probably was too vague about what I wrote and maybe didn’t say it well.

    I wasn’t talking so much about each individual’s ability to be interested in and amazed by the external world. New experiences, new insights, new things to focus on allow each of use to learn, grow and evolve as individuals. I agree with you that the only limit to this is our own ability to focus on the world and our experience of it.

    I was thinking more about fundamental worldviews that are shared across an entire culture or cultures. And also about advancements in technology that alter so signicantly how we perceive things that it causes us to radically shift our concept of reality. For example, suppose that suddenly a pair of glasses was developed that allowed us to see all of the light spectrum, so that we could see ultraviolet, xrays, etc. I suspect that would cause a shift in how we perceive reality, think about it and portray it in our art. And everyone could do it – a new and different shared experience would alter the collective consciousness of an entire culture or beyond. Somehow this seems qualitatively different to me than the new experiences of the world that I gather and grow from.

    Maybe this is an arbitrary distinction or one that isn’t very meaningful. Sometimes it’s only possible to assess what is going on in society in hindsight. It seems to me that there was a confluence of events from 1850-1950 or so that was pretty unique in history and that it had a profound effect on artists (and everyone else!). I was wondering if such a thing was likely to happen again and how. How consciously aware of this were these artists?

  3. Hi Bob, thanks for the great answer. i had understood what you meant, you had expressed it very well, and even better now! It is just that I have some emotional and intellectual problem about:

    1. so many people pursuing the spiritual path… I don’t think it is healthy on the global scale of the universe.

    2. egocentricity, which I find really extreme nowadays. Everybody has his/her blog, his/her photostream, is/her art, and is on the search of his/her own spirituality. We all start to exhibit our Inner life to the world in words and pictures. And it takes much much time you know, and there is not much time left to experience the other people and the world, even if it looks like as there is much interaction on the blogs for example…

    3. one often says in Physics that everything has been discovered yet. Well, I don’t know if it is true, but I do know that we in fact know nothing about the world possibilities. We just know what we know until today. We have no idea if all the rules which seem to rule our Universe until today won’t suddenly change, and transform it into a totally different universe.
    It might be that we are exactly now on the way of a confluence of events, and we only know when the time has come? I believe in this (but I am not sure I will be still alive …)
    Well, and concerning the technical advancement, I think we can still all be amazed, can’t we?

    I don’t know if these artist were consciously aware of what happened in the time you are speaking about. I guess not. I guess one needs the distance of time, to see it as a big movement. One needs to be well informed too, and at that time it was not so easy…

    and so on!!!! Sorry I am short of time to go on!!!

  4. Miki

    I guess sometime we’ll have to sit down and talk about all this! Way too much for a blog, as you say. Thanks for engaging in a most interesting discussion, though. I’m enjoying it!

    Just to say, that your point number 3 was exactly what I was contemplating. I think every generation probably thinks they’ve exhausted knowledge in most areas – and then something revolutionary pops up and changes all the rules. Many times we have to wait for some hindsight to see what that is.

    You bring up a good point about how hard it was back then for individuals to know about what was going on around the world. Today, with instant information, we’re overwhelmed by it. Maybe that makes it just as hard or harder to learn these things!

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