Sunday, November 02, 2008

Art from the Evil Empire

With all due respect
to Cultural Relativism...

Can't we say that some empires
were flat-out evil ?

Not that they didn't have
their accomplishments

(the Nazis built the Autobahn,
and nobody sculpted serpents
-especially really large ones like the one shown above-
as wonderfully as the Aztecs)

but that living in them
was some kind of Hell.

Look at this guy --
he's hopeless, frightened, and dumb.

The Aztec regime was a horror show,
where the center of its political/sacred world
was a place where people were
systematically butchered

not for committing any crime,
but just because that's the way the world was.

Which doesn't mean
that world couldn't produce
some strong, beautiful sculpture

as currently on display
at the Field Museum's exhibit of the

Aztec World

This eagle-man is
a wonderful thing.

A life-size terra cotta

with a strong design
and some
carefully modeled hands

He's the poster-child
for this exhibit

so I'll show all the pictures
I can find of him

The other life-size terra cotta
in the show
was this creepy fellow

(who seems to have been the
inspiration for some monsters
once made for
"Buffy the Vampire Slayer")

Look at that those nasty hands

Those are some of his guts (the liver)
falling out from his chest,
these folks were experts
on human dissection

and pictures show how the priests
would worship this death-god
by pouring buckets of human blood
over his head.

But -- not all their sculpture
was creepy...

Like this farmer
carrying my favorite fruit:
a pod of Cocoa beans.

or this goofy rabbit jar

might one say
that this person
is burdened
by the civilization
in which he lives ?

(even if it's labeled as the
depiction of a deity

They are so good with serpents,
even ones that are feathered.

This gentle girl
is wonderful,
but the piece is so small
it's more memorable
as a photo

This one feels Chinese,
from the Waring states period
or before -- i.e.
back before Confucius and Lao Tse.

Which leads me to another thought
about Meso-American civilizations:

they never got those great philosophers,
or the great prophets
of transcendental religions:
Buddha, Mohammed, Jesus etc.

Their world was all about the power
that separates life from death.

(not much different from our modern world
which is mostly about the power
that separates wealth from poverty)


Note: there were several more
really good stone sculptures in this show:
a reclining coyote,
and some kneeling men.

But unfortunately,
those images cannot be found on the internet,
and I couldn't even find them all in the
exhibition catalog.

Why don't these shows allow
visitors to use their cameras?

What great damage
is caused to our
historical/cultural legacy
by letting
people take pictures of it
that they can share with others?


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