Today I went to the exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) called The Mad Square with my mum and my sister. It looks at German Modernist art from 1910-1937.
Now when I started the exhibition I didn’t really understand what Dada was, or Constructivism, or New Objectivity of Bauhaus were from an art history perspective and if I’m really honest I only have a very limited understanding of them after the exhibition. At the same time I really enjoyed looking at the art and seeing it reflected in a lot of the stuff and I’m familiar with.
For example, there was a film showing, The Cabinet of Dr Caligari, which was made in 1919 and it was silent. This is the clip they showed, unfortunately the picture quality is pretty fuzzy – there are other versions on youtube of the whole film which are much better. But two things really struck me when I saw the clip 1. it looked a lot like what Tim Burton does, and 2. it looked like the Red Hot Chilli Pepper’s video for Otherside. It is fascinating to me just how much we are influenced by the things that have gone before us even if we aren’t aware of them!
Another example that really struck me as I was walking through were the political posters, one said ‘Help Russia’ and had a picture of an emaciated peasant under the slogan, I thought we just have to change the name of the country and we could use it for any number of modern conflicts.
Hannah Höch had a whole wall dedicated to her work (and particularly to her collages) within the Dada movement looking at how the media portrayed female/males roles, how these roles were changing following World War I and how she disagreed with the rigid separation of male/female roles. I was really moved by the fact that we are still struggling with the media’s portrayal of what makes you a successful woman/man/person, with the evils of consumerism (which was the subject of one of another artist’s other pieces) and how even though the world has changed so much, even though we have made ‘progress’ we are still fighting the same battles, still trying to get decent pay for a day’s work, still trying to fight the fat cats telling us what to buy, what to wear, how to behave.
It really gave a new meaning to ‘standing on the shoulders of giants’ for me; I felt as though what I’m doing in this blog, what writers, and artists, and commentators are doing is fighting that same fight to make our lives more liveable, more free.
My mother commented ‘how do they know what the artist is trying to say?’ and my sister said ‘oh they all wrote manifestos’ and my first thought was that nowadays people have blogs for that. An artist has a blog, they have followers, they create art and share it with the world. When art historians look back at the world now it will be the blogs, vlogs and the social media storms that will influence how they understand what was happening, how they attribute meaning to art works.
I felt much closer to all the artists than I have to any artists’ at an exhibit before. I felt like I had just as much right (and indeed responsibility) to use my art to create something new, to create history, to try to influence the way people think, to try to stop people from blindly following whatever they are told through the tv/internet/blogosphere.
Lately, I have spent quite a long time thinking about what I want to do with my life and one of the recent suggestions is to go back to uni. Maybe I need to go back and do an Arts degree, get to grips with Art History, Philosophy, Literature, Poetry and try to get some creative writing subjects happening too. It has been suggested that I am beyond undergraduate and that it would not be stimulating enough, but maybe there is a base there that I need to have in order to appreciate the world I live in, and want to live in creatively. I am inspired to consume as much knowledge as I can on how our world has been shaped by the 20th century and how it in turn was shaped by the centuries before it. I have never really been interested in history, but maybe I should be; maybe it will start fitting things together in a way I haven’t seen before.
I feel like opened my eyes for the first time in my life, that I’m actually SEEING things and it feels AMAZING.