Saturday, October 29, 2011

Excellence of Excellent Museums

So...the Royal Academy of Art had an exhibit called Degas and the Ballet which was beyond words amazing.  Every picture you've ever ever seen by Degas concerning ballet was there, lots of paintings you've never heard of, a lot of sketches and practices, the Little Dancer sculpture in a case in the middle of the room surrounded by sketches of the model from all angles.  It was unbelievably awesome.  We were looking at composition again--how did Degas incorporate movement into an art form that is, by nature, static?  Because he's a genius who did that.  Some of the ones I put in my sketchbook-- Just look at this!  The whole thing makes rhythm! Their postures send the movement through them, and if you look, it directs your eye, oddly enough, off and to the corner, not to mention the fact that the dancers, although definitely the focal point, are not in the center. (second picture down)  The very fact that the dancer, who is lightest and therefore draws the eye, is so little defined, means the focus has to be elsewhere, and it lands on her position and hence the movement.  Please note, these are my thoughts and I don't claim to be an expert.  Also sketched--Dancers in Blue and his Russian Dancers.  Because they're awesome and because Degas inspires me.

The exhibit also incorporated a few rooms of contemporaries of Degas who may have inspired him.  (More links coming up!)  Francois Willeme (he's got symbols in his names I can't replicate easily) made three-dimensional images by photographing a person in a dome simultaneously from 24 angles and then tracing the photos with an instrument that etched the movements into a block of clay; after that, he'd smooth it a bit and add details by hand.  I unfortunately can't even link you somewhere with more info.  Next, Etienne-Jules Marey--he was a scientist who was fascinated by movement and made sequential photos and sculptures thereof--for example, birds flying.  One series showed individual birds, while the next had a wavelike structure showing a seagull flying, but it was two dozen birds melded into one sculpture so that their wings were the most distinct part of them.  According to his wiki, he had a "photographic gun" and is the one who discovered/made the theory that cats always land on their feet.  Loie Fuller (she has two dots on the "i") was a dancer who did some incredible dancing with a robe she invented.  There aren't any videos of her dancing, but there are imitators and this is the kind of thing she did.  (Maybe I was analyzing the make of her robe and contemplating imitating it...what's that to you?) (This is the video they played there, color was added later.)  Incidentally, her robe is probably about twice as long as it is wide, gathered around the shoulders,  extended by sticks, and had to be short enough to not trip her at its shortest part, which would be her height.  It also had to be rather light but durable fabric or it would have a) been a killer to wear and b) wouldn't have flowed well.  (Yet another costume idea...)

The next museum we went to was the Imperial War Museum.  For many of my friends, I know what you're thinking.  Stop it.  Now.  There are no mouse droids, no blasters, no stormtrooper helmets, no Star Wars. Just stop.  :)  What was there--a Jagdpanzer, a Sherman, various other tanks, rockets, exhibits on merchant sailors, wartime artwork, an exhibit on the Holocaust which I kind of avoided, an exhibit on the "Secret War" about the MI5, MI6, and the other British Secret Services, which I found very intriguing.  They had invisible ink literally everywhere, from their shirt collars to their socks.  There was one match in a matchbox   that had a message.  Ingenious little devices, and devices they discovered.  I think that's where the phrase "double-crosser" came from, as the code name for the spies who switched sides was "Operation Double Cross."

The part I remember most about the museum, though, is the feelings and the discussion it caused.  I couldn't help leaving there wondering at the horrors of human ingenuity when turned to kill others, or the tragedy that is war.  We held a long discussion on the steps about war, about why people fight, and if there's a way to not fight.  Some of the thoughts raised were that war is the easy way out, that as humans, lashing back is our natural reaction, that there are always peaceful means that we can use.  I mention these because my view is slightly different.  I want to say first that I think war is tragic; it's one of the worst, if not the worst, thing that we as mankind do to each other.  But there are times when I think it can't be avoided.  There are wicked people in the world who do wicked things, whether that be oppression, murder, or any number of things.  Sometimes they don't listen when you try to work things out peacefully, and sometimes war is the only way to oppose.  Sometimes you have to fight to protect something, whether it be your country, your family, or some ideal.  The Nephites fought for the Anti-Nephi-Lehies after they took an oath not to raise their weapons of war again.  But, by the same token, their sons fought the Lamanites.  I think the biggest question when deciding about war--what are your true motives for the war?  Do you respect not only the lives of your people but the lives of the soldiers you fight against?  Have you tried peaceful means, and/or would trying cost more than fighting?  Not necessarily in lives, there are times when something is more important than life.

Those are my thoughts that I just wrote in a few minutes; I don't know how organized or logical they are, but there they are.  And I think that the fact that the museum made me think is something that's valuable--that's why I think we have museums, to make us think and to look at the past and learn from it.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting thoughts--I have thought the same kind of thing about war. That sometimes there are those who will destroy everything for power, and that is not right. But those they employ to help them in their task are often only pawns who do as they are told. Our fight should never be against them. To quote a movie: "Do you want to kill Nazis?" "No, I don't want to hurt anyone, but I hate bullies."