alan little’s weblog

thoughts on indian traditional arts

22nd January 2004 permanent link

I have a series of postings coming up that have been prompted by weblog dialogue with Brian Micklethwait: firstly his observation that “Photography is one of the great under-discussed influences on Modern Art”. I think he underestimates how underestimated it is. I set out to respond with a comment, but the comment got too long and turned into a posting for my weblog, which then got even more out of hand and turned into a disconnected, rambling and very unfinished heap of notes on my thoughts about Art in general.

Then Brian responded to my off-the-cuff comments about movies: “do art forms have a life cycle, and are movies at the end of theirs?”; and that sent me off into even more broad and unfinished thoughts about what it would actually mean for art forms to have a life cycle, and are creativity and Art-With-A-Capital-A inextricably tied up with originality and innovation? Is that in fact why certain major art forms in the west, such as classical music and high brow literature, seem to be moribund at the moment? Big questions, to which “life cycle” is much too simplistic an answer. I think I will end up mostly agreeing with Brian on a different explanation for what has been wrong lately (i.e. the last two hundred years, approximately) with the arts in western culture. But I haven’t got there yet.

I started thinking about what little I know about arts in a different culture, namely India, where as far as I’m aware people don’t appear to worry so much about that sort of thing. So my long unfocused rambling essay on art-in-general began to turn into a somewhat more focused essay on Indian traditional arts. It was still far too long and nowhere near finished. So I decided a good idea would be to cut it up into pieces and then be disciplined about finishing each piece, publishing it and moving on to the next(*).

So, coming soon: Alan draws grandiose conclusions based on a rather small amount of actual knowledge of the following Indian arts & traditions:

  1. Sculpture and temple architecture
  2. Kathakali dance
  3. Yoga teaching (this one will be the exception in that I do actually know what I’m talking about – which, as everyone knows, is optional on the web but can occasionally be helpful)
  4. Classical music

It may seem like we’re a very long way, at this point, from “the influence of photography on Modern Art”. But I am in fact going there – I’m just going the long way round.

(*) It’s better to publish something than nothing; better to get part-finished things out where people can read and critique them, than to wait forever and not say anything until you (wrongly) think you alone have worked out the ultimate truth – this being another of Brian’s perennial Good Points about why weblogging is an excellent thing from an educational perspective, not to mention being a widely known truth about any kind of creative effort: the Perfect is the enemy of the Good.

related entries: Photography

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