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  • It's only been the last few hundreds years or so

  • that Western civilization has been putting art in museums,

  • at least museums resembling

  • the public institutions we know today.

  • Before this, for most, art served other purposes.

  • What we call fine art today

  • was, in fact, primarily how people experienced

  • an aesthetic dimension of religion.

  • Paintings, sculpture, textiles and illuminations

  • were the media of their time,

  • supplying vivid imagery

  • to accompany the stories of the day.

  • In this sense, Western art

  • shared a utilitarian purpose

  • with other cultures around the world,

  • some of whose languages incidentally have no word for art.

  • So how do we define what we call art?

  • Generally speaking, what we're talking about here

  • is work that visually communicates

  • meaning beyond language,

  • either through representation

  • or the arrangement of visual elements in space.

  • Evidence of this power of iconography,

  • or ability of images to convey meaning,

  • can be found in abundance.

  • if we look at art from

  • the histories of our major world religions.

  • Almost all have, at one time or another in their history,

  • gone through some sort of aniconic phase.

  • Aniconism prohibits any visual depiction of the divine.

  • This is done in order to avoid idolatry,

  • or confusion between the representation of divinity and divinity itself.

  • Keeping it real, so to speak,

  • in the relationship between the individual and the divine.

  • However, this can be a challenge to maintain,

  • given that the urge to visually represent and interpret

  • the world around us.

  • is a compulsion difficult to suppress.

  • For example, even today,

  • where the depiction of Allah or the Prophet Muhammad is prohibited,

  • an abstract celebration of the divine

  • can still be found in arabesque patterns of Islamic textile design,

  • with masterful flourishes of brushwork

  • and Arabic calligraphy,

  • where the words of the prophet

  • assume a dual role as both literature and visual art.

  • Likewise, in art from the early periods

  • of Christianity and Buddhism,

  • the divine presence of the Christ and the Buddha

  • do not appear in human form

  • but are represented by symbols.

  • In each case,

  • iconographic reference is employed

  • as a form of reverence.

  • Anthropomorphic representation,

  • or depiction in human form,

  • eventually became widespread in these religions.

  • Only centuries later,

  • under the influence of the cultural traditions surrounding them.

  • Historically speaking,

  • the public appreciation of visual art

  • in terms other than traditional, religious or social function

  • is a relatively new concept.

  • Today, we fetishize the fetish, so to speak.

  • We go to museums to see art from the ages,

  • but our experience of it there

  • is drastically removed from the context

  • in which it was originally intended to be seen.

  • It might be said that the modern viewer

  • lacks the richness of engagement

  • that she has with contemporary art,

  • which has been created relevant to her time

  • and speaks her cultural language.

  • It might also be said that the history of what we call art

  • is a conversation that continues on,

  • as our contemporary present passes into what will be

  • some future generation's classical past.

  • It's a conversation that reflects

  • the ideologies, mythologies, belief systems and taboos

  • and so much more of the world in which it was made.

  • But this is not to say that work from another age

  • made to serve a particular function in that time

  • is dead or has nothing to offer the modern viewer.

  • Even though in a museum setting

  • works of art from different places and times

  • are presented alongside each other,

  • isolated from their original settings,

  • their juxtaposition has benefits.

  • Exhibits are organized by curators,

  • or people who've made a career

  • out of their ability to recontextualize or remix

  • cultural artifacts in a collective presentation.

  • As viewers, we're then able to consider the art

  • in terms of a common theme that might not be apparent

  • in a particular work

  • until you see it alongside another,

  • and new meanings can be derived and reflected upon.

  • If we're so inclined,

  • we might even start to see every work of art

  • as a complementary part of some undefined, unified whole

  • of past human experience,

  • a trail that leads right to our doorstep

  • and continues on with us,

  • open to anyone who wants to explore it.

It's only been the last few hundreds years or so

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B1 TED-Ed art divine visual depiction representation

【TED-Ed】A brief history of religion in art - TED-Ed

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    稲葉白兎 posted on 2014/11/30
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