Monday, August 2, 2010

Evolution and the Arts. . .

So, like so many other people, I saw "Inception" the yesterday and was suitably impressed.  I guess a better way of saying it was that my mind was completely blown.  To balance four (or five) separate dream sequences in the mind of the viewers simultaneously was totally fucking awesome.*  My initial thought was that the acting was solid, but not great, while the plot was brilliant.  Upon reflection, the acting was far better than I had realized.  Joseph Gordon-Levitt's performance, in particular, was amazing and subtle.  Anyway, Christopher Nolan is a genius, hands-down. 

And in that realization, I began to think again about the evolution of art, in general.  For instance, if you look at the cave paintings of our early ancestors, which have depth and perspective, and compare them to the paintings of the Middle Ages (which lack either depth or perspective), and then compare that to the later works of the Renaissance, you get totally confused.  Are we evolving or moving backward, or going back to where we've been?

Biologically speaking, there's not a whole lot of difference between humans today and humans 25,000 years ago (especially since, outside of Africa, the family tree doesn't branch out a whole lot).  The same abilities and same brains are at work.  The hunters in the caves made art because they were felt compelled to by the same motivation that drove Leonardo and Christopher Nolan - to make art.  And as hunters, they had a lot of free time on their hands (look this one up people - hunting and gathering is ridiculously easy compared to agriculture), so they could take the time to paint. 

But as people spent more time farming, less time was spent on painting.  So, art began to suck.  Additionally, the good artists were probably drawn to other types of art.  If painting is a drag, then artists will go into sculpture, or performance art, or writing.  And when it comes to the painting art of the Middle Ages, I think that's what happened.  The good artists were probably sculpting, and the hacks were painting.  Once there was some money in painting, the good artists, like Leonardo or Michelangelo became painters.

Comic books in the 20th Century is a good example of this.  When the 20th Century rolled around, probably the lowest form of art was the comic book, and the authors of comic books wrote crappy plotlines and two dimensional characters.  But, these comic books were popular, and some kids who actually had artistic talent went into the comic industry (such as Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman), and then comic books became more and more complicated and complex.  Similarly, Nolan's rewriting of the summer action film is probably the result of being inspired by earlier, crappier films. 

So, I guess to sum up, I think that art, or rather the production of art, is a fluid evolution and devolution of thoughts and techniques, all depending on what inspires the artist.  Who knows, maybe the "Jersey Shore" will inspire some genius down the road. . .or not.

*Ed. Note - The author has a tendency to turn into a total fanboy sometimes.   Our apologies.

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