Sometime late last fall the thought struck me that I had become entrenched in the comfortability (yes I made up that word) of day to day life. Understanding that this stasis I found myself in inherently characterizes certain stages of life, mostly revolving around marriage, family, and career, I realized during this epiphany that I was living in a manner that was disingenuous to my post-graduation goals. It quickly became evident to me that I was the personification of the hamster running and moving but forever fixed in the same location. I am a self-proclaimed creature of habit and had easily fallen into a form of living that would not cause any real growth or achievement of personal ambitions. But it was comfortable and I was working and contributing to someone else's well-being. Running the same wheel each day, having my basic needs met by the circumstances of my situation offered me a security I find reassuring. This sense of security had lulled me into a state of in-action. I had obtained my goal of finishing my BA after years of hard work and sacrifice. Now what? It seemed so natural and was indeed quite easy to continue leading the same student lifestyle as when I was in school, hence the rut. In realizing the state I was in, an awareness enhanced by a development of what thankfully ended up being minor health issues, I knew the time had come to summon up my adventurous side, burried way down deep beneath many a layer of ease and continuity, and shift my focus from living to get through school and this phase of my life to actually moving into the next phase. I passed through the transition phase without any signs of progress and so at the beginning of December 2012 I knew major change and a brand new adventure was what I needed to set my motivational fires ablaze. I needed to get off the wheel and out of the cage of security I lived in for more than 3 years in NY and start living the life I really want for my self. That is what my Chicago adventure is all aboutand Friday March 1 I took a step out of my well fortified comfort zone and did something I hope will contribute to a new and exciting life here in Illinois....to be continued. ;)
Sunday, March 3, 2013
Friday, January 4, 2013
The following is a paper I wrote for a sociology class and I have been thinking alot about group dynamics and fitting in and the difference a close knit group of friends can make in one person's life...more on that topic to come.
The minority to be analyzed is the subordinate group in the high school environment. More specifically: how can membership in a subordinate group perceived as “bottom of the rung”, enhance the cohesiveness of that socially subordinate group in the adolescent environment, and how does the subgroup attempt to overcome the negative perception imposed on them? The hypothesis being that members of a social group with specific goals, perceived as subordinate and influenced by the social superiority of their peers will bond as a result of common social maltreatment as well as common goals. The results of this study can provide an understanding of the realistic ability for high school aged children to develop healthy relationships despite their subordinate status within their social environment and whether this idea is accurately represented in the media.
In addressing the concrete definition and study of cohesion, Moody and White explain the ongoing issue of cohesion this way:
“Although questions about social cohesion lie at the core
of our discipline, definitions are often vague and difficult
to operationalize…Structural cohesion is defined as the
minimum number of actors who, if removed from the group
would disconnect the group…” (p. 103).
In their study of peer relationships amongst high school students the authors “show that network positions predicts school attachment” and that the cohesiveness of such attachments is greatly shaped by the group having a “status beyond any individual group member.” (Moody & White, pp 104,122)
Other studies look specifically at the influence of group identity within the subordinate group status. In their study of the social significance and cohesiveness of the high school musical groups, researchers Adderley, Benz, & Kennedy found that the subgroups formed by these musical organizations, “form subcultures of their own within the larger school setting and that these subcultures prove to be important vehicles for support and growth.” (Adderley, Benz, & Kennedy, p 191) Their interviews with students who participated in such groups suggested that these students did so with multiple benefits; most particularly an open classroom with a social environment leading to a group which develops a structured sense of group identity. (p.200-201)
According to Kinney (1993), studies involving high school, as well as intergroup social interactions, have clearly shown how these social relationships shaped the individuals view not only of themselves, but others as well. Findings have been strong in supporting the belief that those who actively participate in extracurricular activities were defined by a healthier sense of self. (Kinney, 1993, p.22)
Because we are examining the representation of minorities in media, particularly on television, content analysis is the most effective form of research. My study involves the portrayal of the group dynamic within a clearly defined subordinate high school group as represented by the Glee club on Fox’s television show, Glee. Although there are twelve episodes in which a pattern of cohesion becomes well-developed, I have selected the first three episodes to represent the parameters of my research.
Within the high school world of Glee clear there is a clearly defined social hierarchy as described by the cheerleading coach, Sue Sylvester in the pilot episode.
Sue: High school is a caste system, kids fall into certain slots. Your
jocks and your popular kids, up in the penthouse; the invisibles and the
kids playing live-action druids and trolls out in the forest, bottom floor.
Will Schuester: And where do the Glee kids live?
The subgroup represented by the Glee club is slow going at first. It initially collects the socially ostracized misfits: the overeager star, the closet drama queen, the Asian punk rock chick, the paraplegic, and the African-American diva. As the show progresses the viewpoint of the general school population regarding the members of Glee club are evidenced by their blatant ridicule via slushies to the face in the case of Rachel Berry or regular hurling into the dumpster by football players in the case of Kurt. But peer bullying will eventually extend to the more socially accepted students who join, like the football quarterback, Finn Hudson, whose fellow teammates bombard him with paint pellets once they find out he has joined Glee club.
As the make connections through performing together the differences between them take a back seat to their mutual goal. Initially intimidated and a little afraid of Rachel’s aggressive behavior Finn tells her in Episode 2:
Finn: Well, when I first joined I thought you were kind of insane.
I mean, you talk a lot. More than you should. To be honest with
you I looked under the bed, made sure you weren’t hanging out
under there…but then I heard you sing…It touched something in
Despite the slushies to the face for Rachel, or being called deep throat by fellow teammates for Finn, as he reveals in Episode 3, the connection they make through music binds the growing Glee club together. Through his membership in Glee, Finn withdraws from the typical high school antics he was previously involved in like in Episode 1 when watches his “buddies” swing Kurt into the dumpster. When Finn finally decides he is committed to Glee at the end of the Pilot Episode he tells the other members, “I don’t want to be the guy that just drives around throwing eggs at people….that isn’t who I am…This is what I want to be doing, with you guys….We’re all here for the same reason, because we want to be good at something.”
The growing cohesiveness and clear emotional connectedness is clearly evidenced in two incidents in Episode 3. Although much of this episode revolves around the attempts by Sue Sylvester and her cheerleaders to thwart the success of the club by focusing on their need to win at Regionals, the Glee kids rise above the desire to win at all costs when their group dynamic is threatened by the overbearing choreographer they bring in to improve their chances. When he tells Artie he is cut because he isn’t trying hard enough to walk and a wheelchair is depressing, the group seems to crumble. But as Dakota continues to ridicule the individual members for what he perceives as their “flaws”, like Mercedes being too fat or Rachel needing a nose job, the group led by Rachel decides he is unnecessary because, “…we don’t need you…We’re going to win because we’re different, and that’s what makes us special.” Who they are as a musical family is what makes them special
The second scenario that exemplifies the cohesiveness despite inner and external pressures is the ability Kurt finds to reveal that he is gay to Mercedes. Although, it seems obvious to many in the group, it is not until Mercedes takes an interest in him that Kurt is forced to admit it out loud. Mercedes’s response models the bonds which hold this subordinate group together.
Mercedes: You shouldn’t be ashamed of who you are, Kurt. You
should just tell people, especially the kids in Glee. The whole
point of the club is about expressing what’s really inside you.
While the show is certainly a generalized as well as hyperbolic representation of the high school experience it allows for a strong representation of what the research claims. That a school sponsored group where teens participate with a shared goal and allowing for sincere personal expression and social development can strengthen the bonds of that subordinate group and allow them to buffer the day-to-day challenges of being allocated to the “sub-basement.”
Sunday, December 16, 2012
"And it came to pass that the God of heaven looked upon the residue of the people, and he wept; and Enoch bore record of it, saying: How is it that the heavens weep, and shed forth their tears as the rain upon the mountains? And Enoch said unto the Lord: How is it that thou canst weep, seeing thou art holy, and from all eternity to all eternity?... The Lord said unto Enoch: Behold these thy brethren..." Moses 7:28-29,32
No words exist to describe the events of December 14, 2012 only tears; God's tears mingled with ours
Monday, December 3, 2012
“The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them.” Thomas Merton.
The unvarnished truth is I am a quantifiable disaster at loving people the way they are in such an open an accepting manner. I like boundaries and rules and mutual respect. The older I get the the clearer it becomes that this is a child's fantasy I have yet to exorcise. And yet I struggle to accept the notion that in order to truly love others we imply an acceptance of how they may treat us no matter how injurious and disrespectful. When one opens one's self up to others and becomes subject to their whims and capriciousness how far must one go to exemplify love and kindness? At what point does charity for others become more important than respect for self? How does one both love with total acceptance and maintain a sense of value for one's own needs? I will let you know if I ever find the answer....
Friday, August 24, 2012
What gives life meaning? What makes an individual life meaningful? What is the Good life? How should we treat others? Do we have any control over our own lives or is everything predetermined? What part does time play in all of this? What if there was no tomorrow? All of these are questions which are addressed in some form by director Harold Ramis’ 1993 comedy Groundhog Day.
6:00 am on February 2 comes early and often for weatherman Phil Connors. Sent to Punxsutawney Pennsylvania to report for the 4th year in a row on what is the country’s oldest Groundhog Day celebration, cynical and snide Phil, played by Bill Murray is surly and unpleasant towards his cameraman, Larry (Chris Elliot), producer, Rita (Andie MacDowell) and pretty much everyone he comes in contact with. He is constantly acerbic and insincere in his weather reporting as well as his social interactions. Phil is a man who doesn’t like people, telling Rita and Larry on their drive to Punxsutawney, that “People are morons.” After reporting half-heartedly on the Groundhog Day ceremony Phil is desperate to get back to Pittsburg immediately but Mother Nature has other plans. They get caught in an oncoming blizzard that Phil ironically predicted would miss the area altogether and are forced back to Punxsutawney. It is the next morning when Phil wakes up to the same song playing on the radio, I Got You Babe, that he senses something is not quite right. With a sense of déjà vu, asking the owner of the B&B “Do you ever have déjà vu, Mrs. Lancaster?”Phil goes throughout the first day recognizing a sense of familiarity with even the most mundane events. But Phil is the only one aware of this and is clearly the focus of this phenomenon. At the end of each day Phil heads back to his room ad wakes up the next morning at 6:00 am to the same song playing on the radio. While any concept of time progressing is nullified by the repetition of the day there is a clear progression in Phil’s behavior as he begins to rack up the February 2s. Having been a man who saw himself as in his way to bigger things there is an irony in the fact that he is now caught in this pattern of waking up stuck in the same place. A place he is desperate to escape; or at least he is desperate initially.
As he accrues Groundhog Days the obviously self-imposed alienated Phil reminds us of the groundhog celebration itself and we are the spectators wondering if he will come out of the hole and see his shadow. It is awkward to watch such a self-satisfied person turn to others to find a solution to his problem. First he sees a medical doctor and then a psychologist to try and understand this sense of helplessness in the face of an unexplained and unyielding time loop. What is the point? And why this day? Exasperated by the inability to find answers Phil looks for solace in the working man’s therapy, drinking at the local bowling alley where he inquires of his fellow patrons “What would you do if you were stuck in one place and every day was exactly the same? And nothing that you did mattered?” Is Phil talking about his current circumstance or his life as a whole? We get the idea that Phil’s dilemma is a more universal struggle when one of the men at the bar responds “That about sums it up for me.” When Phil decides these drinking buddies are too drunk to drive themselves home he is inspired to take the first step in his philosophical journey when he asks them what would they do if there was no tomorrow and they point out that if there is no tomorrow there are no consequences and so they would do whatever they felt inclined to do. This strikes a chord with Phil and so begins his life of hedonism. He continues to pay little attention to the feelings and experiences of those around him and decides to throw caution to the wind. When Rita sees him chain smoking and eating a gluttonous meal she asks him why he does not care about his health and quality of life and he responds “I don’t worry about anything, anymore” as he stuffs pastry into his mouth. Rita is disgusted and sums up the state of Phil’s character with a line from a Sir Walter Scott poem:
"The wretch, concentred all in self,
Living, shall forfeit fair renown,
And, doubly dying, shall go down
To the vile dust, from whence he sprung,
Unwept, unhonoured, and unsung"
Living, shall forfeit fair renown,
And, doubly dying, shall go down
To the vile dust, from whence he sprung,
Unwept, unhonoured, and unsung"
Phil is a selfish self-centered person who will ultimately live and die alone.
As the Groundhog Days continue to accrue we have no real sense of how much time conceptually has passed but Phil has become familiar with the people and events of the town and the notion of living a life led by impulse and satiating desires begins to lose its shine. This is when he focuses his attention on Rita. And yet he is still looking to gain something for himself without really looking to himself for the solution to the problem at hand. He pursues Rita by adapting himself to the type of man she would be attracted to a standard he learns by repeating his interactions with her and extracting more information each time. His purpose becomes wooing her by proving he is a man who meets her criteria. But it is all flash and no substance. As the days continue to repeat themselves Phil finds no real happiness in this façade as he wakes up the next morning to the dreaded tune of I Got You Babe and either the night before had ended with a slap in the face or with Rita gone from his room. It seems in the disingenuousness of his existence has become mechanical even while pursuing something that could ultimately contribute to his happiness, like a meaningful relationship with Rita. Up to this point in Phil’s journey to discover some redeeming kind of meaning and happiness in the mechanical monotony of everyday life he has managed to accomplish the things that fail to do so.
When he wakes up again on February 2nd at 6:00am after all his hedonistic efforts Phil has moved on to the fatalistic attempts to end this repetitive existence. As Rita and Larry watch in disbelief Phil describes the town festivities for the camera in this way:
This is pitiful. 1,000 people freezing their butts off waiting to worship a rat. What a hype! Groundhog Day used to mean something in this town. They used to pull the hog out and they used to eat it. Your hypocrites, all of you! ...You want a prediction about the weather? You’re asking the wrong Phil I’ll give you a winter prediction. It’s gonna be cold. It’s gonna be gray. And it’s going to last you for the rest of your life.
And the very next scene is a montage of Phil waking up and smashing the clock radio to the sound of Sonny Cher. And his next news report perfectly reflects Phil’s larger existential problem “there is no way this winter is ever going to end as long as this groundhog keeps seeing his shadow. He has to be stopped and I have to stop him”; meaning he cannot take this life anymore and the only solution is to end it all. When Phil’s attempts at ending his life through a variety a ways i.e. driving off a cliff with the groundhog at the wheel, diving off a building, walking into oncoming traffic, and getting into the bath with a toaster he is forced out of this philosophy of ending his existence as the focus of his existence. We get to see the toll Phil’s journey of self-discovery takes on Larry and more frequently Rita in moments shown on-screen by the reactions they have to his behaviors. But the next day it is all fresh. Nothing has happened yet. But not for Phil.
It is finally when Phil acknowledges the value in learning and improving himself by taking piano lessons, ice sculpting lessons, avid reading, and learning about the people around him in a more sincere and selfless. When he tells Rita that he has killed himself so many times that he doesn’t even exist anymore she tells him that having all this time on his hands could actually be a good thing, how much he could accomplish with “eternity”. Even after he begins to develop a real connection with Rita, it is not until he focuses on developing himself and then using those skills and talents to improve the community i.e. saving an ungrateful kid when he falls from a tree, changing the tire on a car full of elderly women, saving the mayor from choking, and doing all in his power to keep the old homeless man he ignored at the beginning of the film from dying. It is only after Phil takes an active role in his life as well as the life of others that he seems to enjoy life, as repetitive as it is, having made real connections with people and placed a value on his relationships. This is when he finally wakes up the next day with Rita by his side.
Since this movie came out in 1993 it has been one of my favorites. It is a masterful film that forces us to take a look out the most basic philosophical issues of how to be happy and what makes life worth living in a comedic and almost imperceptible way. The theme of the groundhog seeing his shadow, a signal of 6 more weeks of winter, is parallel to that of our desperate need for Phil to come out of his hole of self-absorption and see that spring is on its way , that there is meaning and happiness to be found in living; and we get that glimpse when in his last Groundhog Day report on scene the once gloomy pessimist states,” When Chekhov saw the long winter he saw a winter bleak and dark and bereft of hope. Yet we know that winter is just another step in the cycle of life. But standing here among the people of Punxsutawney and basking in the warmth of their hearths and hearts I couldn’t imagine a better fate than a long and lustrous winter.” This Phil has finally discovered what it is to truly live.
Thursday, July 19, 2012
“You don't get heaven or hell. Do you know the only reward you get for being batman? You get to be Batman.” - Neil Gaiman
I've been in love with Batman most of my life. It's true. If you ask my sisters what the best way to push my buttons was when I was little they would tell you about how they used to delight in tormenting me with their rendition of the theme song to the original Batman tv show with Adam West. It went something like this: nana nana nana nana nana nana nana nana Matman and Bobin. It drove me beserko. Did they not understand my love for the caped crusader and a young girl's delight at seeing a strong female character as a superhero in the development of Barbara Gordon as Batgirl? Of course they didn't care about any of that! As teenage sisters their focus was on holding me down as they cracked the knuckles in my toes and tortured me with the mockery of their ridiculous "Matman and Bobin" theme song. It was the thought that motorcycle riding girls could fight crime and have a PhD in Library Science that helped me overlook the campy condescending spin the original television show put on the world of Bruce Wayne and his alter ego. But I always loved the characterization of this flawed human man who used his money to battle the Jokers and the Riddlers of the world. Not to mention tangling with the awesome Catwoman! Yet it wasn't until I started swallowing whole the tales of Bruce Wayne and the Caped Crusader from the mind of true geniuses like Frank Miller and Jeph Loeb that my heart was fully conquered. Batman/Bruce Wayne became this brilliantly flawed archetype damaged by the violent loss of his parents as a child and determined to save the soul of his city, perhaps attempting to save his own at the same time. He is a man who lives according to his own rules and will not be ruled by the whims of others. One of my favorite scenes in any Batman arc is the fight that occurs between Batman and Superman in Frank Miller's classic The Dark Knight Returns. The scenes are told and drawn to depict raw emotion : anger, frustration, exhaustion. And for a human vs. alien battle Batman's intellect and skills manage to hold their own.
And then there is the mastermind that is Christopher Nolan. Can there be any other Batman story arc before or after his trilogy is complete? The rise and "fall" of a legend has never been more powerfully crafted into entertainment. I would defy George Lucas to tell such a compelling and powerful story in 3 films and then calling it a day. If Christopher Nolan is smart, and I think the evidence speaks for itself, he will leave his version of Gotham City as is at the end of this last film and give us the gift of seeing this Batman universe untainted by the Lucas effect. I have no doubt there will continue to be Batman movies but I hope DC and Warner have the good sense to shift the story and character of Batman in a way that is true to his inherently universal humanness.
Tuesday, July 10, 2012
|Vincen Van Gogh Bride in the Rain 1887|
The Art of Seclusion: How the Age of Edo Came to Shape Western Art
Throughout history the production of art has been a means by which history can be understood. The arts often reflect the very evolution of the social and political developments of any historical period as well as being shaped by those very events; one might wonder why the metamorphosis of art isn’t more readily used as a biography of the modern world particularly in regards to the impact of major world cultures coming into contact with one another on the world stage. Such is the case with the development of art in the Edo Period of Japan, with its long period of seclusion, and its impact on the trajectory of the art movement not only in Japan but also in the Western world once contact was re-established in the mid-nineteenth century
By the late sixteenth century the ruling Ashikaga shogunate in Japan was losing its political dominance. As the shogunate crumbled various daimyos and their samurai battled to fill the growing power vacuum left by the weakened Ashikaga rule. Civil war ensued, destabilizing Japan’s advancements in economic and social arenas and returning it to a collection of independent feudal states battling for dominance During this period, Oda Nobunaga , Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and then Tokugawa Ieyasu began to consolidate power over the various feudal states of Japan including areas left untouched by Ashikaga authority (Murphey, 273).. While Nobunaga and then Hideyoshi begin the drive to expand and centralize power it is Tokugawa Ieyasu who defeats and unifies the numerous “rival factions” by the beginning of the 17th. Ieyasu then moves the capital form the Ashikaga Kyoto to Edo, what is now Tokyo, ushering in the Edo (Tokugawa) period (Arima, Medieval Culture). Yet however victorious Tokugawa had been in defeating his rivals there was a deep-seated concern about revolt, it was for this purpose a new form of political control was implemented by means of land distribution. As Arima describes it:
Domains were allotted according to whether the Daimyos had supported Ieyasu before his final victory in1600. Those who had supported Ieyasu from the start (fudai) were allowed to serve in the government; those who had surrendered only in the final battle (tozama) were excluded.To try to preempt any revolution a system of control of the samurai families was instituted.Strict rules of conduct, rules governing marriage and construction of castles were also in place. The Daimyos were also often shifted from one domain to another. (Arima, Merchant Culture)
Reinforcing this rigid social structure was the “alternate attendance system” known as Sankin Kotai which demanded the daimyos alternate annually between a residence in Edo and their own homeland with the stipulation that the families, particularly their wives and heirs, were to remain in Edo permanently. With the expenses that would accrue in travel and living arrangements for the daimyos as well as the overhanging hostage like situation of their families there would be little political or financial resource to revolt against the shogunate. The result of the financial hardship on the feudal lords was their growing dependence on the merchant class for financing which would be achieved through loans or even arranged marriages (Murphey, 275).
The importance of Tokugawa Ieyasu on the development of a unified Japan cannot be overstated. Not only was he adept as a leader in battle, “Ieyasu was a shrewd and calculating politician who changed the social structure of Japan, enabling him and his heirs to control the various factions. He established a dynasty to ensure that the Tokugawa clan continued to rule long after his death. He also supervised early diplomatic relations with Europeans and passed an edict banning Christianity from Japanese shores” (Katsushika Hokusai, What Was Japan Like Then?). Tokugawa instituted a social order that would eventually give rise to an influential merchant class. The stabilization of the political structure would allow for the Japanese to flourish for the next two and a half centuries despite its rigid social order.
While the blending of daimyos and wealthy merchant classes out of economic necessity and social ambition yielded a kind of cultural unification of Japan the Tokugawa shogunate became more leery of outside influences particularly that of Christian missionaries and foreign traders. Concerned with maintaining the peace and stability they had structured for their society, foreign influence became seen as a threat to the country’s unity and order. By 1638 not only had Christian missionaries been expelled as a state policy but so were all European traders. Western influence would be extremely limited in the Edo period. Yet during this time of seclusion Japan’s growth internally was impressive with increases in production and commerce creating greater wealth for the merchant classes who would then align themselves with cash poor feudal nobles. This accumulation of wealth allowed for the rise of a bourgeoisie and an urban life full of arts and entertainment for those with money (Murphey 277-278).
While Tokugawa Japan was characterized by a feudal social rigidity its economic growth gave opportunity to the inferior classes in Edo society, the artisans and merchants. It was this increasing “middle class” that drove the cultural revival pursuing and playing off of old traditions to create a flourishing arts culture characterized by kabuki theater, Geisha, literature and poetry, and sumo wrestling (Katsushika Hokusai, The Edo Period). But it is important to remember that
In Japan's self-imposed isolation, traditions of the past were revived and refined, and ultimately parodied and transformed in the flourishing urban societies of Kyoto and Edo. Restricted trade with Chinese and Dutch merchants was permitted in Nagasaki, and it spurred development of Japanese porcelain and provided an opening for Ming literati culture to filter into artistic circles of Kyoto and, later, Edo.( The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Edo Period)
The artistic boom of the Edo period was a reworking of traditional arts along with the exposure to some external influence particularly by Chinese culture.
As Murphey points out the culture of Edo is dominated by the wealthy middle class who have the money and time to engage in social amusements as well as supporting artistic endeavors. The “Floating World” culture, “an amusement quarter of theaters, restaurants, bathhouses, and geisha houses” become one of the favorite subjects represented in an increasingly popular art form: the woodblock print.(Murphey, 280) . “Ukiyo-e [i.e. woodblock] prints became the symbol of this new culture. With their strong linear forms, complemented by flat areas of colour and strange angles, ukiyo-e was some of the first massed produced art in the world, giving normal people the chance to appreciate what had been until then the domain of the rich and privilege”.( Katsushika Hokusai, The Edo Period) It is the popularity and distinctly Japanese development of this artistic form that will shape the evolution of Western and Modern art.
Tokugawa rule brought about peace and prosperity and allowed for the production of an artistic golden age with the likes of woodblock printmaker Hokusai producing such masterpieces as the 36 Views of Mount Fuji. The greatest master of this technique, Hokusai, produced aesthetically pleasing prints with clean bold colors and simple lines. Although, Hokusai, died in 1849 prior to the opening of Japan to the West just a few years later, his artistry would make an indelible impression on both European and American artists (Murphey, 281).
|Katsushika Hokusai The Great Wave 1830-1833|
Just as Japan is responding to the show of force by Commodore Perry in 1853 by opening its doors to the Western world, “Western art was, by the 1850’s in the doldrums, unable to find a way forward” and it was just at this time that Japanese arts began to flood into Western Europe, where it was viewed as a whole new way of reflecting the world through a drastically different use of form and space (Checkland, 111). As Lemaire describes it, the introduction of Japanese style into the Western perspective caused a “profound change in the focus of aesthetic, with a taste for things Japanese dominating from the 1860s onward…Europeans marveled at the delicacy and sumptuousness of Japanese crafts and visual arts, and in particular Japanese prints” (Lemaire, 282). This adoration of the arts of Japan became more than just a fleeting interest in something new and exotic by Western imperialists, japonisme became an “artistic movement” that found a following by the likes of Manet, Monet, Van Gogh, Whistler, and Cassatt who each found in it a means by which to question the rigidity and complexity of form in Western art (Lemaire, 282). These artists in turn would revolutionize the development of art and the traditional form of aesthetic standards in their Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, and Expressionist movements.
The history of the world is often written by the victors and as such we have often viewed the significance of the Western world over those they sought to dominate as the focus of study but as is evident in the rich history of Japanese art and society influence can be found beyond political boundaries when looked at through a cultural lens.