Wednesday, March 18, 2009

No such thing as a new idea.

So, that book I bought at the Morse Museum, what, a month ago? Yes. I've been reading it. (There should be a rule about me reading art history books, but there isn't, hahahaha.) It is "30,000 Years of Art" and is three inches/7.5 cm thick and weighs 15 pounds/almost 9kg. It is full color printed and mostly full of the standard 'great bits of art' (Nefertiti bust, Gundestrup Cauldron), but occasionally has new and surprising stuff. And the new bits? Well, they leave me convinced that no one's had an original idea in at least seven thousand years. Probably longer. The only thing that has changed is the technology. Don't believe me? Let's have a look. (These are all photos of pages in the book... bear with me.)

This whole 'modern art' thing is a bunch of crap... want individualized, unusual interpretations of everyday things? Yeah. The human race has been doing that for a while.

This is a bull sculpture, from Iran, dating to about 1200 BCE. You could plop that baby on a white laminate pedestal in the Museum of Modern Art and no one would look twice. Not what most people think of when they hear the term 'ancient Middle-Eastern art'.

Ditto for portraits. Want stylized features with personality? Humanity's been doing that for a while, too.

This guy's from Nigeria, and dates to 450 BCE. Isn't it great? I love the amount of feeling the artist managed, with such stylized features. Almost reminds me of a cartoon. (Not an insult. I think cartoons are art, too.)

But there's more! Mythical figures go way back, and so do statues of them.

This statue is from China, 300 BCE. Their metallurgy skills were so advanced, I doubt anyone could improve on it, even today. Again, drop it into the Museum of Modern Art, and no one would say "Oh, but that's from ancient China". They'd say "Who is the artist? I want to commission some work."

Doesn't this look like modern cosmetics packaging?

Put some pressed powder in there, and a powder puff and no one would look at you twice if you pulled it out of your fancy purse at a formal affair and dusted your nose. Except it's solid gold, from ancient Egypt, and dates to 2603 BCE. The Egyptians apparently didn't just know cosmetics, they knew packaging, too.

And this. THIS looks like some plastic dinnerware my mother had, for us kids to eat off of in the early seventies. Almost identical. I swear.

But this one is Roman. And glass. And two thousand years old.

I've given up having new ideas. I'll settle for interesting versions of old ideas. Or any idea at all.


Alwen said...

I think the freshness comes from me doing it for the first time evah evah evah, dahling.

There was a set of people in the tatting world who had invented this new modern way of tatting, where the double stitches were always "right way up", rather than rings one way and chains t'other.

And they really pushed it as progress, the one right way to tat, and said that everybody should do it this way now - the other way was backward and old-fashioned.

Then along comes Google Books and what do I find in the oldest (1865) tatting book on there? Patterns made so that the stitches are always "right way up"!

Hah hah ha ha ha ha ha!

(I have an abiding suspicion of any "one and only right way".)

OMG, the verification work is intatto! 6079 Smith W, go work on your knitting . . .

Amy Lane said...

If you come up with it independently, you are still a genius! (And if you study it in your spare time because you thirst for knowledge? You are still a genius!) If you ever get to see Coraline--and my three-year- old loved it--that Roman candy dish will take on whole new meaning.

Roxie said...

I am a firm approver of unventing. Or, as the tart on the first season of Star Trek said, "Just because Shakespeare wrote it eight hundred years ago, that does NOT change the fact that I wrote it this morning."

Esther said...

For years, I've wanted to make myself a t-shirt that says "I have the body of a goddess...too bad it's the Venus of Willendorf"
But my husband says I'm the only one who thinks that's funny...

Mandy said...

I would wear the a t-shirt like that, Esther! My husband wants a t-shirt that says "My wife is on...Compared to Absolute Zero". He really knows how to make a girl feel good!

Mandy said...

I'm an idiot! Apparently I can't be bothered to proofread my comments - that should say "My wife is Hot ..."

Sorry. I know it doesn't make any sense as is.