Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Tapestries and Velvet Elvises

The etymology of the word complicate is very telling: it originates from the experience of a tapestry, both in the looking and the making. Contemplating a hand made tapestry or Persian rug, provides a lot of insight into what I'm trying to convey through my use of the concept of complexity in this blog.

Looking at a well made tapestry is a true wonder of complexity. The rich colors, remarkable details, and the complicated designs and themes, are all carried out without the use of Auto-Cad, industrial dyes or computer-numerically-controled (CNC) sewing machines. What a leap from our cave drawing in France some thousands of years ago. And of course, who can resist the urge to look at a tapestry's back side, thinking that we'll be able to see how such a piece of majesty is accomplished, only to see even further, just how complicated a tapestry truly is? Complexity in this case, doesn't lead to confusion, it leads to beauty and wonder.

Now, compare the tapestry displayed on the museum wall to the black-velvet paintings displayed outside an old dinjy white van parked on an abandoned street side lot (often sharing the space with a van selling gulf shrimp). We might fashionably gag and chide the brash colors made bold by their black fury canvas, but you have to admit that the images are quite striking- you turned your head and looked didn't you? I did and I still shudder.

So a black-velvet painting (bvp) is striking, but is it beautiful? Recognizing that a post modern thinker would strive to find a way in which to equate a bvp to a tapestry, I would say that the main difference between a tapestry and a bvp is a matter of complexity: a tapestry draws us into wonder and deep regard for the life we're involved in. A bvp on the other hand, lacks such complexity and can only briefly titalate. And as to our regard, the best it can solicit from us is our sense of kitsch.

I would ask here now, when you look around at the culture that we've made together, does it look more like an inspiring tapestry, or does it look more like something kitsch?

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