Thursday, July 29, 2010

Art Imitates Life. Oh, and Vice Versa

'Dragons are fantasy. If there's magical talismans
or a magic sword or wizards or loving crazy not-real animals...
all these basic things that break laws of reality:
that poo poo's all fantasy. I'm into hard sci-fi.'

Roman Debeers, Party Down

This morning I read about an Indonesian scholar arguing that the pursuit of civilisation begins from the smallest things. God is in the detail and that by questioning art, we can make sense of how we see the world. In 'Western' countries, this idea has been followed through in such a focused way that the difference between fantasy (i.e. Harry Potter) and Science Fiction (i.e. Star Wars) are taught in universities and invariably used as examples to explain to students phenomenons from the Cold War to Bush's invasion of Iraq.

Perhaps it's like how Naturalistic and Impressionistic paintings are differed ideologically, with what is accepted in medieval Western Europe and how it relates to history and political power. Through art, we learn about our past and plan our future better. Some would say, seni adalah penjaga peradaban. It's the same premise behind why Picasso's abstract art is significant, because by then Western civilisation has begun criticising the frigidity of the modernist thought and how society is in an identity crisis collectively searching for a spiritual entity amid a materialistic world. In a more modern context in Indonesia, it's like studying about pornography censorship and how the discourse explains the struggle between ideologies in the world we live in now.


Although I personally didn't choose this discipline because I needed a line of career that achieves a (somewhat) tangible set of goals - I think it's important to maintain our sense of aestheticism, because it indirectly affects our empathy and compassion.

Indonesian scholar Komarudin Hidayat - yes, this is the second time I've cited him the past week - argues that we need to nurture four important fundamentals of education (and in this case I reflect on my role as a parent and, by structure, an educator): art to soften empathy, sports to construct fair game, mathematics to sharpen logical thinking, and spirituality to understand the meaning of life. All four are significant but, particularly in a country like Indonesia, art (and sports!) is the easiest to ignore. Although in the end we might specialise in one aspect or a combination of several, I think it's important to be able to appreciate all four.

And that the conceptual and practical interaction between the four aspects is what makes society a whole entity.

* I feel the need to say that all of this came from my brother's tweet about a hypothetical battle between Voldemort and Darth Vader. Which, by the way, come from different (imaginary) worlds - by genre fantasy and Sci Fi. Voldemort should go against Sauron instead. This is the geek in me talking :p.

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