Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Quote of the Day ~ John Maeda

           John Maeda, MIT grad and former president of RISD, seems really cool: he’s bringing art and technology together. Actually, the idea of him is so perfect for the world right now (all this technological improvement needs to be balanced by some kind of art revolution).

But I looked at his art, and I was less than impressed. Maeda’s work is supposed to have that crisp, modern, minimalist feel to it: simplicity is about subtracting the obvious and adding the meaningful- those are his words by the way.

The first piece of art I found was a computer program that took your sentences and reduced them to words which consisted of the first letter of each word of each sentence (if I didn’t do a great job explaining it, you can check it out here). He’s doing a great job adding meaning…
            Okay it sounds like I’ve targeted him, and will proceed to single him out every chance I get if I’m not stopped. So this is me stopping myself. I will not insult Mr. Maeda’s work- art is art. (On that note, I really liked some of John Maeda’s other works...Check them out here:
            But his words are troubling...subtracting the obvious while adding meaning. He’s making perfect sense, of course, crisp short stories are much easier to keep track of than long winding tales with 70 characters, and 15 plotlines and yet, such stories are the ones that draw in the most people...Game of Thrones is an example- but then again most people would watch anything with that much gore: even if it had just one plotline and a handful of boring characters..- and so is Desperate Housewives, and all those other poly-plot-line-ic TV series’. Maybe it's because simple, short, and crisp is often boring; it consists only of what is useful and meaningful: the facts.

The whole world of minimalism is about sticking to the bald facts- being concise. Somehow minimalism gets away with it, maybe because it has that clean, uncluttered look. But I don’t think it should (get away with, I mean). Facts aren't beautiful, it’s the flourish with which they are presented that makes them beautiful. That's the art. When the facts are subjectified, and interpreted (not distorted, mind you...just interpreted). When there is no interpretation, just a depiction of the truth, that is a kind of minimalism. This is the rage of the modern world; to not put a flourish, and to not interpret or subjectify.

(my version of shouting it from the rooftops)

     To me, art is all about looking at the world from another person’s eyes; it’s very subjective, and very transporting. Minimalism is all about presenting the truth, the bare minimum, with as little embellishment as possible - it's a type of art that just doesn't take me places.
            If minimalism took over completely, then every kind of transporting art would be gone: movies, fiction, paintings etc. Movies, books, and music tell stories; they present the facts with metaphors, and allusions, and symbols.
                Imagine if stories just laid facts on the table - no comparisons, no allegories, just the bare, naked truth. Stories wouldn't be stories anymore. Art is not about communicating a point; it's about communicating a point of view. We don't listen to stories for the actual communication of the truth (we were supposed to have newscasts for that), we listen to stories for understanding, for insight. We look to others' viewpoints so that we may find a similarity, or something we've been missing. Stories are about a person's philosophy, and everyone knows metaphysics isn't an exact science; everyone knows that it has no solid facts.

So even if simplifying your interpretation and the way you look at the world adds to your understanding of the meaning, or your purpose, it does not make it any more beautiful. It's a complex world, and deluding yourself into thinking it is simple, isn't enough. Appreciate the complexity of it all. We're never ever going to understand everything, but let's try!What if it is the obviousness of a presentation, the extraneous details, that makes it all the more meaningful anyway?