Saturday, October 24, 2009

Art and civilization

I was going to wait until I found the video clip I wanted for this, but I decided to go ahead and post it since it appears that I may have to snail mail someone to locate it.

I was very blessed when I was in high school to have Ms. Sylvia Butler as my Ancient World History teacher. She was significant in my life for two reasons. First, she was the only teacher that had all of my siblings and I take her class. Second, she taught us the history of early civilizations through their art. She not only showed us wonderful pictures that she had taken of art all over the world, but she made us draw some of it, as well as remember the verbal facts, on our tests. You can tell a lot of a civilization through the art it produces and praises.

Another teacher who taught me about the importance of art to a nation was my eigth grade Social Studies teacher, Dr. Demott. He preferred to go as "Mr. Demott" and he was a very soft-spoken guy, but while some teachers know how to present material, he knew what material to present. He used contemporary music and various film clips to underscore certain aspects of life in the 20th century.

One example was using Neil Diamond's "I am, I said" to show the alienation that occurs in a mobile society. Another example was using actual state-sponsored films from communist Russia to show us the power of propaganda. The visual imagery of this clips were so strong that there was no need to translate the Russian in them.

(hopefully, I can find an example)

Frankly, I'm surprised he was able to get away with showing us some of this stuff, but I am glad he did, because it showed us not only real propaganda (versus the weak stuff many people scream about these days), but showed us how powerful controlling the arts can be for those in power, no matter what their idealogy.

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