Monday, April 11, 2016

The Importance of Context, or As You Like It

What are the differences between these two pictures...

 ...and these two?

I took the first two last year at Tate Modern Museum in London and the blue thingy is a work of art. The second pair was made in our park in Pennsylvania and the rust-covered thingy is the remnant of an old railroad. And the differences? The first one is blue (it is covered with blue crystals and is actually sparkly), has more complex and tortuous form. The second one is covered with rust, has clean lines and simple, minimalist form. If you ask me, the second one also could be called a work of art, if taken from its context and put in a modern art museum. Or not. Its all in the proverbial eyes of the beholder.
Look at these pictures. To me they are nature own lace.

Yes, human made lace is more orderly, less chaotic, but this one is inventive and unfinished, it gets your imagination flowing in all possible directions.

 And here are two examples of lace made by yours truly. Of course it cannot be compared with St.Galen's lace pictured above. Still I am pretty proud of it.

Today I want to talk about three plays that I saw over the last two weeks. Yes, after several months on a tiny island it was great to put on some nice clothes and go to a theater.
The first one is called As You Like It by William Shakespeare.
It is a comedy with a very happy ending. Yet, for a comedy there is barely any plot in it. All things that actually happen there are totally unrealistic and unbelievable:
- a duke banished to the woods,
- two noble girls escape to the same woods, one - disguised as a boy,
- a guy who is in love with a girl disguised as a boy also escapes to the same woods (very popular woods, if you ask me!) and start hanging love poems on trees,
- later this boy saves his sleeping brother (still in the woods) from a lioness,
- an evil duke becomes a hermit, leaves the dukedom to the first duke (from the woods),
- four couples marry.
Since the plot is flimsy and non-important, the whole play is just "words, words, words". About life and love. Some of them very funny but if you think a little they seem to be serious. Some - seem to be serious but if you know the context - not that much. So, it is all as you like it... You want a silly comedy with shepherds and shepherdesses in some idyllic woods - here you go. You want to mock romantic poetry about love, melancholy philosophers and their philosophies - help yourself. Or maybe you are/were in love and want to dive deeply into this interesting topic - there is plenty of food for thought here. The famous monologue "All the world's stage, And all the men and women merely players." is from this play and is said by Jaques, a philosopher. "Jakes" was Elizabethan slang for toilet, so he may as well be talking "crap", who knows?
At the end, as usual after a play by Shakespeare, I was astonished at how little human nature changed in 500 years since the play was written. Yes, the words sound different, but the characters, feelings, and concerns are the same. What about evolution? Isn't it a long period enough to evolve? Or we are doomed to repeat same mistakes over and over? And what was Shakespeare's life like? How was it for him who knew so much about us, humans? And live with all this incredible knowledge?
A week later we went to another play - Doctor Faustus by Christofer Marlowe, who was Shakespeare's contemporary. It was well done and perfectly staged but throughout the performance it was quite obvious that this play is much more medieval than modern. Or baroque. But definitely archaic. It was interesting to watch from a certain historical perspective but not so much as a study of human nature.
Next day we saw Saint Joan by Bernard Shaw, and the contrast was palpable. Shaw is an amazing playwright - he weaves such skillful net with words that you forget about time and everything else. And even in a tragic play there is always place for irony and laughter. Exactly as I like it.
In conclusion. We are extremely lucky because there are so many great theaters in Philadelphia.
I love theater. A good play sucks you in, sort of swallows you like a whirlpool, you feel the energy that passes from actors to spectators, you become a part of the art creation that is happening right then and there. What do you think about it?
And yes, next time I promise to write about knitting...

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