Throughout time human beings have expressed their innermost profound thoughts, feelings, and understandings of life in a common language – the inexhaustible universal language of creativity. Human culture has been born from this urge to express and create. It is because of creativity that people have learned to be aware of themselves and their needs, and it is because of creativity that they have learned not only how to survive, but also how to progress.
Knowledge & Creativity
Today we live in a global environment, and to some degree a shrinking environment, through the communication possibilities brought about by developing technologies. It is apparent that we have an immense capacity to advance and enrich human life, through our cultural heritage, the knowledge and information that we as a species have amassed over time and have passed on from generation to generation. Sadly this knowledge and information that has helped propel some of us into the space age, is denied for a variety of reasons to the vast majorities of the world; this should not be so. If only people could become more aware of the importance of creativity in future social, cultural and economic development, especially the crucial part it plays in allowing the individual to find solutions to his problems, then surely this could not be so.
Still there is much to be learned about humanity, about our approach towards the global cultural heritage and the oneness of human creativity. Today it is possible that this awareness and understanding of human history as a continuous story may be shared and experienced by millions of people who ordinarily would never have the opportunity to feel that they are part of the global society. With millions and millions of underprivileged people in the world suffering from disease, malnourishment, displacement, economic and social deprivation…… why should we even begin considering this proposition?
The Global Cultural Landscape
If we accept that we live in a globally interdependent world and if we assume that a society is the product of its members’ cumulative memory as it is mapped in a shared cultural landscape, and that on a global scale there are thousands and thousands of such landscapes to be found, which tend to stress the differences rather than the similarities of one society from another, then it becomes apparent that we are urgently in need of a new global perspective, a worldwide cultural landscape that can encapsulate human culture in its entirety. In other words, if we begin to understand that we are all part of one race, the Human Race, then it becomes imperative that we view our cultural heritage in its totality rather than its component parts.
What is called for is not another theory to be understood only by a privileged few, but a project that can illustrate, communicate and inspire.
We propose to put together an educational exposition that will present and convey the world history of art. This exposition is primarily conceived as a vehicle which enables access to the arts for the many nations that have scant opportunity to become acquainted with major works from around the world. This exposition will travel from country to country, residing in each place for a reasonable period of time (6 – 12 months) that will allow maximum benefits and utilization for the host. The exposition will be designed not only to display works of art but to incite and encourage hosting countries to enhance their awareness as to the importance of creativity, and to become a catalyst for change.
Vertical vs. Horizontal
The exposition will bring together examples of art from around the world that will span a period ranging from early cave art through to the 21st century. The exhibits should be displayed, as far as possible, in layers of chronological order relating to their time of creation, viewed in parallel with other examples of art from around the globe dating from the same period. The current tendency is to view, for example 3000 years of Greek Art, up to and around the Roman period, in a vertically linear cross section of history that is presented in an independent package as though existing in and by itself, instead of viewing it in a horizontally linear cross section of world history that would allow us to view say Classical Greek Art in relation to Indian Art, Mayan Art, Chinese Art etc. dating from the same period. Or for example current art history thought tends to concentrate on Western European art as the definitive art of the 19th Century globally to the extent it often overlooks the fact that art was not only being created but was also flourishing in other parts of the world during that exact same period. Of course, we are aware that attempts have been made to redress such and other imbalances as curators and historians forever try to expose us to new and fresh perspectives, but as far as we are aware, no attempt has yet been made to collect and display a comprehensive exposition of art throughout time on a global scale.
Treasures in Trust
There are some very good and compelling reasons as to why this has not happened, not least among them the reluctance of the custodians of invaluable and irreplaceable works of art to part with them, even if on a temporary basis. On the few and rare occasions that custodians part with these treasures the entrusted recipients have to meet an exhaustive and complex list of criteria that will satisfy concerns about curator-ship, security, in-house climatic conditions, handling, transportation, storage, insurance, and so on. This makes it unlikely if not impossible to ever succeed in gathering such an impressive number of original works under one roof.
Therefore we propose that this exposition is put together using replicas and copies of original works. Although at first glance this might appear to be a naïf, unappealing and controversial proposal, on closer examination it reveals all kinds of interesting and exciting possibilities that can open up a variety of new prospects and directions in the presentation and accessibility of art, especially in its application as an educational tool. It should not be so hard to overcome one’s hesitation to utilize replicas; after-all such cultural heritage monuments as the Acropolis of Athens and the Borobudur Temple in Java are to a great extent reconstructed using replicas without detracting from their intrinsic value as impressive and important monuments. By accepting replicas and copies of original works it now becomes possible to put together an exposition of the world history of art.
Replicas in Perspective
There is much to be said in favor of the use of replicas and copies. An impressive amount of “museum quality” replicas and copies are already in existence and could theoretically form the foundations upon which this exposition could be built. Unlike originals which are invaluable and irreplaceable replicas are relatively cheap to produce, and reproduce if need be so. Recent advancements in technology combined with the use of new materials and techniques have rendered the art of replication to a more accurate, precise, and affordable endeavor. Now that these works of art are no longer priceless unique originals the costs of insurance, handling, security, etc. can be reduced to a fraction of what would otherwise have amounted to a sizable fortune. With financial and security concerns thus reduced it now becomes feasible for this exposition to travel to almost anyplace, including the majority of the countries of the world which lack the proper means and infrastructure and are unprepared to host even exhibitions of originals, that in more fortunate and economically advanced nations might be viewed as, of mediocre significance and importance.
It should be understood that the use of replicas and copies in this exposition is not meant in any way to replace originals as they are to be found in museums, galleries, and archeological sites today. Rather their use is meant to excite and awaken an interest that it is hoped will lead to further research and in-depth inquiries by the viewer. And yet the use of replicas can in and by itself, as is envisioned by the organizers of this exposition, become an instrument of an unusual perspective of arranging and displaying art in an historical context. It is conceivable, for example, that some seriously damaged and incomplete works of art are not only replicated but also reconstructed and restored to their original state as they might have appeared to the viewer when they were originally conceived and created.
That is because the organizers of this exposition would like to use an “atmospheric” approach in their curator-ship. By “atmospheric” we mean that we would like art to be viewed in a meaningful context that evokes the culture and era within which the exhibits were conceived and created. For example, instead of just displaying paintings and sculptures of the Baroque era in a “traditional” exhibition format one could attempt to place them in a “room”, an environment, that would also include furniture, tapestries, chinaware, architectural details, etc. all dating from the same Baroque period, and to complete the “atmospheric” impression one could always add some Baroque music.
The use of an atmospheric curator-ship poses new challenges. Finding an appropriate venue from place to place that may be able to house an exposition on such a scale is in itself a daunting task. Imagine, therefore, the added factor of recreating controlled environments that would require exact specifications such as, height, length, width etc. to house these atmospheres; then the difficulties are multiplied manifold. One possible practical solution would be the creation of a venue that is designed specifically to accommodate and facilitate this exposition. Such a venue should be designed in such a way that it can be dismantled and reassembled, in different forms that would accommodate the various topographic idiosyncrasies that each new site might involve, while the individual units composing this venue maintain their individual spatial integrity. There are many appeals to be associated with such a fascinating venue, not least that it can come to be viewed as a homage in itself to the creativity and ingenuity of the human mind.
Sharing The Knowledge
The exposition by its nature will be an educational resource, but one which also contains and provides additional resources and facilities applicable to many levels of education, from primary to post graduate studies. For example the organizers envisage that each sub-section of the exposition will contain facilities and materials to enable the viewer to further explore areas of interest within that section. An essential element of this project is the creation and production of a range of affordable educational materials, such as books, videos, CDs, CD-ROMs etc designed to accompany the exposition, and that can act as viable teaching material for schools and other institutions of education.
An interactive website will be designed to complement the exposition, and as such provide a further resource and potential for educational purposes, through its accessibility on the world wide web.
Because of the exceptional format of this exposition which is designed around an ‘atmospheric’ concept, the exposition suggests itself to a supplementary and complementary program that will include a number of other art forms such as theatre, dance and music that can be used to illustrate the integral relationship extant between one art form and another. In this respect an accompanying program of lectures and seminars could also be linked with the exposition.
Reciprocity in Motion
This project ought not to be viewed in any sense as a static process of dissemination, but rather as a process of mutual learning, inasmuch as in receiving knowledge of other cultures through the exposition, each hosting nation also informs the exposition, contributing from the knowledge and wealth of it’s own cultural heritage and thereby asserting it’s own place in the totality of the global heritage.
In following the organic form that an exposition of this kind assumes the consequences for growth potential are many and diverse. Should this particular exposition model prove to be viable for example, a consequence could be follow up exhibitions that explore further in depth specific areas of interest, so that host countries of the original exposition can continue to participate and share in the benefits of the project.