Art and History

Note: this isn't about art history, which is by far the most useless field I've ever seen, on account of its failure to understand either art or history.

Instead, I'd just like to make a quick note about how one can use art to interpret history.

More specifically, how one can use art to interpret how history works. Which really isn't the same thing as the above, now is it?

Anyway, looking at the style of Asian art, in particular classical Japanese and to some degree Chinese styles (although I'm more familiar with the former)--perspective is achieved through a series of layers. It's like making a collage: there actually are three dimensions if you layer thin sheets of paper on top of one another, and if you look at the series of overlapping thin lines--which in color, builds up said color in gradual washes, as if things further away are viewed through a fog.

Indian art, too, tends to be fairly two-dimensional.

Western art, on the other hand, has since the 15th century (or maybe even earlier) been centered on the idea of creating perspective through use of one or more points, as well as generating depth in a way that involves the buildup of layer upon layer of paint, creating something that seems to go into the plane of the canvas (as opposed to building on top of it).

So where does this get us with history?

It's really not as much about history as the perception of time, which extrapolates into how you view human lifespans and therefore human actions over time...but in short, Asian history insists on a kind of holisticism (holicism? overall-macro-ness) where events build up in layers, and each individual layer tells its own story (or, rather, a fragment or microcosm of the story), but it takes the whole thing to create a really together picture. And Western thought is so strongly rooted in progress--Newton had to impinge upon the shoulders of giants, etc.--one layer of paint can't be viewed without the rest, because it's all about progression. A always leads to B, that kind of thing.

This, and learning how to draw plum flowers in 16th and 17th century Japanese traditions, is about all I did when I was forced to take art history by the shitty setup of the University of Chicago core curriculum.

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