Finished reading Kenneth Clark's Civilisation. I can't say I actually understand the book, because nearly every item he was talking about and describing with passion and logic, I had little idea. I barely recognized some names, and very little of the artifacts. Sculptures, some; paintings, nearly none; background history and social context, zero. Even the wordings he used were elusive to me, because it felt discrete in a sense of continuity of meaning — I could recognize most of the words, then never saw the pattern that this word is connected with that word in a sentence, and had no idea what this combination means!
Alas! This is terrible. Here I am, reading a classic on civilisation, yet I do not understand a thing! On the back of my mind I was thinking, isn't this the same feeling of ignorance and disconnect when foreigner looks at Chinese arts? and what about the most recent news of 奶奶庙, that people are debating whether these local artifacts are a form of popular art, or an example of poor taste. So when it is an eye sore, to me, isn't it because I lack of the context, thus, like looking at these truly marvelous of the West, so as to being clueless of how to appreciate? Isn't beauty, after all, a complete subjective matter? But if so, how do we perceive beauty? how do we create a beautiful thing, a beautiful feeling, a beautiful act, anymore, if it is just your words against mine? Doesn't this feel, wrong?
Interesting. I do not know. I don't think there is a qualified beauty, that someone can define, or determine, or discriminate one form or another. Yet, there is a sense of beauty in us. You can't deny it. There is a common beauty. There is a timelessness in them. I can't explain, nor even give example. But it's there. The La Marseillaise moves me everytime it is played. It's a sensation shooting through my vein. You want to stand up, you want to march, you want to fight for a principle, and you can die for it.
Music, painting, sculpture, literature... arts have such a power that they can possess the receiver at the moment of engagement. How transforming! So what about these 奶奶庙 arts? Aren't they on the equal footing as those classics since they also bring a sensation to their audience, just on a different spectrum than mine?
But no. I still have to disagree. As liberal as I try, these objects are vulgar. Same apply to many of the modern Chinese sculptures, statues, and buildings. To think of it, it is not these big mass themselves are at fault. No. There are some that are just replica of the originals, like the Charging Bull, while others are free range vulgarity some called creativity. Even when it is a truthful copy, it looks bad. The creative ones are, just alien.
Why so? I think they lost the soul, the genuity, the spirit within, the life, and thus become a superficial, lifeless, thus become a joke. The great sculptures convey such a force, be it a smooth marble of a human head, or a charging bull in bronze, it talks to you without holding back an inch of the feelings that author felt and invested into it. No holding back. It's not only all there, it wants more, it creates more, it empowers you. Beethoven, Mozart, La bohème, love letter, a great movie, a portrait... it beholds you, it has its own identity, speaking to you, staring at you, and disrupting you. It's a language by its own that best describes the scene and conveys an emotion, and it does it perfectly. It has motion, has a thought, has a moment, that draws you into it, so you can be part of what it is presenting.
Those Chinese mockups, lost all of the above. You know what, this actually is familiar — they took the shell, thinking the shell is the whole. So there is a perfect replica in form, but has no root — a charging bull by the entrance of a condo community, a Capitol Hill shaped county government building, or even the super ugly egg. I think they are all looking great, marvelous creation; but they don't fit where they are because they have no soul. What to fight and charge when it sits next to a bunch of cookie cutter high-rise condos!!!????? And how it be restless and resisting when the whole point of residential is about peaceful family life!??? Isn't this a joke or what!? And the performance arts in a round, smooth, harmony looking egg!? NO! Performance arts are energy, initiation, burst of force, searching deep in human soul, touching the untouchable, speaking the unspeakables! How can they live with harmony!!?... I'm angry, I'm about to cry, because they are sooooo fake and soo lost the meaning of what the form is for... these, are genuine insult on arts.
Diversity creates beauty (how interesting the fearless girl is!). But fake shells can never.
— by Feng Xia