I think it will make more sense if we consider academia a subculture. This may sound weird, and academics don’t tend to consider themselves as part of a subculture (they often consider themselves sort of acultural—not really a word that I’m aware of but you get the point). But a subculture simply defined is a culture that lives within the context of a larger one but has some common rules and ideas that are different from those of the larger culture. To wit: academia has its own meeting places (ie universities), forums for discussion (ie academic journals), even has its own jargon (as medievalpoc as discussed before) for talking about the issues they are jointly interested in that is not readily understood by the culture at large. For another, the roots of academia are very much white, Western, male, and upper-class—and traces its origins the Scientific Revolution. Those with leisure time—like landed gentry in Europe—could devote themselves to academic study as opposed to having to learn and practice a trade. They developed systems of finding and dispersing knowledge that we still use today, such as the scientific method and, yes, objectivity.
Academia tends not to think of themselves as having their own culture, and this is where problems arise. While the notion of objectivity in of itself is a wonderful one—this is how the Oxford English Dictionary defines it:
The quality or character of being objective; (in later use) esp. the ability to consider or represent facts, information, etc., without being influenced by personal feelings or opinions; impartiality; detachment.
The problem arises when we remember that we are all influenced by our culture, no matter what. It was even a culture that created the notion of objectivity and agreed upon its meaning and how it should be practiced! Objectivity is not a universal truth. It even has its own history—people who study scientific history are very interested in it, and there’s even a book about it! This definition Oxford has given us has been made by people, and people, no matter how noble their intentions, are shaped by the cultures we participate in, often in ways we aren’t cognoscent of. That’s a big part of the mission of art history—that through images, we can understand the multifaceted social, political, cultural, religious and psychological circumstances that the artist operated in. But scholars of the humanities, no matter how pragmatic we try to be, are also shaped by the same factors that shape history and art, and if we pretend that we can escape them entirely we really can commit dangerous errors—the effects of which are quite tangible and catastrophic.
Popular thought would dictate that if we can’t find historical record of something, then it never was there. History is regarded as rote, comprised of facts set in stone, untouched by human opinions. But that’s not true. The thesis of medievalpoc’s entire blog, and the hard work of many revisionist historians have shown, this traditionally white male elite group has shown its prejudice through the ages, transmitting information they saw as important and excluding what they didn’t. Even if it is committed unknowingly, the effect is the same: erasure of marginalized groups.
I hope that made sense! It’s really important to know, so I’m glad you asked :-)
Oh, I’m gonna miss you, book. We didn’t speak the same language, but we didn’t need words to express our love.
You know you’re in a room full of museum geeks when you say “I saw Savage Beauty” and everyone instantly starts cursing your name
Paulus Potter (Dutch, 1625-1654), Frisian Horse (Le cheval de la Frise), 1652. Etching. Second state. Warburg Institute, University of London.
HMMMMMMM methinks I spot something different about this Fresian…
Figure of a horse, middle 8th century AD, from Astana Cemetery, China. Painted clay, wood, silk, and straw. Acquired by Aurel Stein on his expeditions to the Silk Road Repository, The British Museum.
From the British Museum website:
Astana was a cemetery site along the Northern Silk Route explored by Sir Aurel Stein during his third Central Asian expedition (1913-16). It is thought that residents of the walled city of Gaochang nearby were buried there. Until its destruction by Tibetans in AD 791, Gaochang was the administrative seat for the Western District (Xizhou) of the Tang Empire and the convergence point of roads from the north and south-west that ultimately led to the capital of Chang’an.
This figure formed part of the furnishings from a tomb, together with other figurines of horses and a camel. Although made from clay and wood, it was based on sancai-glazed ceramic examples placed in tombs of metropolitan China at this time. Painted markings on its body indicate that this is a bay-coated horse. There are petal-shaped pieces of silk on the body. Its wooden legs could be fixed to the floor of a niche in the tomb. The saddle-blanket is shown as magnificently embroidered and remnants of silk indicate where stirrups would have hung.
Documents recovered from these tombs indicate just how important horses were to daily life in the region. The whole network of communications relied largely on horses. Detailed registers were kept of the journeys horses made, penalties prescribed for injuries from neglect or overloading, and enquiries carried out when an animal had died en route.
I know little to nothing about Chinese art, especially of this age, but I do know one thing: this horse is gorgeous.
RIP Walter de Maria (October 1, 1935 - July 25, 2013): your majestic vision of art that transcends time and space will truly be missed.
Angelika Platen, portrait of the Walter de Maria
Earth Room, 1977
The 2000, 1992
One Sun, 2002
Triangle, Circle, Square, 1972
5-7-9 Series, 1992-96
Lightning Field, 1977
Portrait of the artist with Broken Kilometer, 1979
Cloud Music was in good form today! It’s hard to hear, especially with Superhighway in the background, but its electronically generated tones correlate to the movement of clouds across the sky (I seemed to always miss the most interesting parts when I was trying to record, but what can you do?). Since today was partly cloudy, it was quite spirited! This was the cutting edge of technology in the 1970s, and probably one of the first applications of computer technology to art. It’s still pretty awesome today.
David Behrman, Robert Watts and Bob Diamond;Cloud Music; 1974-79.
Romaine Brooks, Climbing One’s Wings, 1930. Photomechanical reproduction on paper. Smithsonian American Art Museum, gift of the artist.
These haunting images may date from 1930, but the emotions Brooks expresses in them are still as relevant today.
(All Romaine Brooks, 1930. Pencil on paper. Collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, gift of the artist)
2. Enemy Fat
3. Caught (Emprisonee)
Romaine Brooks, The Impeders (Les Empecheurs), 1930. Pencil on paper. Smithsonian American Art Museum, gift of the artist.
Romaine Brooks’ oeuvre (body of work) is a tour de force of restraint. She could use the barest of lines and the simplest of palettes to create a masterful picture. This one is one of my favorite of her drawings— a woman tries to escape with a winged horse, but two men are yanking at its tail, dragging it down. I can’t help but think it relates to her struggles as a woman and as a homosexual.