I had a conversation today about how the postmodern Western world was catching up to the African experience of art. In traditional African art (the distinction must be made), an object was made to be used and transformed by the owner. It could be transformed by the adding of color, using the object in a ceremonial function, or performing with the object. But, the art was not made with the idea of being stuck to a wall and gazed upon by a walking stream of observers. Too many Westerners believe art appreciation is passively receiving the message contained in the art object. Standing and looking at a painting at the wall. Walking around with a headphone listening to some disembodied voice tell you about the painting on the wall. Sitting at a music hall or theater: listening to classical music or watching the ballet. There is applause expected from the audience. It is a strictly battened down "call and response" form of performance.
There has been a proliferation of venues, including 'respectable' museums, that provide a place to conduct time-based art, performance art, and installations which demand the audience do more than sit on their behinds or gaze with wide eyes. All of this contemporary art is not hidden in seedy alleys or off the mainstream map. It's right there to be sampled by anybody, educated or not. Is it because so much of popular culture is interactive? Blogging about ANTM, creating your own iMix, podcasting about hated celebrities...you can easily insert your opinion/experience into the ether. Why not expect the same from high culture when you enter that arena? Anyway, that was my hunch. I hadn't done any follow up research or exploration. Tripping through the 'internets,' I found this article on www.nytimes.com. Read it!!! The topic is in the same vein of my conversation and hunch, but comes up with a different reason. It's written by Natalie Angier, the author of one of my fave quotes: "If you are or ever have been a girl, you know that girls are aggressive. This is news the way the Code of Hammurabi is news."
THE DANCE OF EVOLUTION, OR HOW ART GOT ITS START
If you enjoyed the Mahler post, check out this blog/website that's devoted to classical composers, musicians, and performers of African descent.