Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Through a Lens*

This weekend was pretty culturally rich: Four movies, and a trip to the Met that was one of my most enjoyable in ages. TOH bought me a book of 1001 Paintings to See Before You Die, and we'd selected the Met's paintings featured** to guide our trip. It did add something, meaning that I didn't spend the whole time sitting in the Velázquez and El Greco rooms, Mark didn't just try to drag me around the armour, and we looked at things differently. We also got to look at the musical instruments, which was a surprisingly good and interesting room.

However, I was struck by the phenomenon of photo-taking as viewing yet again. One of the things that I utterly fail to understand is the taking of photos of the exhibits. If it's for a sketch, maybe that's fair, but why not just buy a print or a postcard? What particularly bothered me was the instrument room, where so many people just walked through and didn't stop, they just paused to take photos without actually looking at anything. It really is as if having seen the object is more important than the object itself.

This ties in with WUB's extremely thoughtful post about Cloverfield, in which she states that documenting is increasingly more important than responding. It extends to everything, but nothing quite brings it to mind like a museum. I really wish art at school had instructed us in ways of looking at things; just as useful, and more so for completely untalented hacks like me. In fact, that might have helped me with my own artistic attempts. Nonetheless, I do try to look, understand, and slowly I'm learning. It takes a discipline that you have to instil; most of us are so lazy, it's just easier to snap and not think.

* I almost entitled this "Life Through a Lens" and then remembered it was a Robbie Williams album title, so no go there. Although, of course, "thru" was the spelling he used, which is particularly repugnant to me.
** Dude, if you're going to write a book like this, then having an index by location might be pretty effing useful. Just a suggestion.

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