Monday, February 26, 2018

THE IDENTITY POLITICS OF GETTY'S "OUTCASTS"


A VELLUM LEAF FROM A 15TH-CENTURY BOOK OF HOURSWITH A LARGE MINIATURE OF THE CRUCIFIXION.
FRANCE, CIRCA 1475


Here's how this week's arts and culture column begins:

“The root of all disturbance, if one will go to its source, is that no one will blame himself.” — Dorotheus of Gaza, sixth-century monk

Through April 8, the Getty Center is featuring an exhibit of illuminated manuscripts titled “Outcasts: Prejudice and Persecution in the Medieval World.”

To prepare, I read Christopher de Hamel’s “Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts,” a delightful entrée to the millennia of history, obsessive scholarship and arcane world of palace intrigues that characterize these splendid worship aids and works of art. (“Illuminated” refers to the frequent use of gold leaf).

The Getty is an L.A. treasure. I am grateful to it. I really wanted to like “Outcasts.”

But within seconds I felt the spikes of contemporary “identity politics” being driven into my hands and feet.

The opening commentary set the tone.

“Life provided significant obstacles for those who were not fully-abled, white, wealthy, Christian, heterosexual, cisgender males. For today’s viewer, the vivid images and pervasive subtexts in illuminated manuscripts can serve as stark reminders of the power of rhetoric and the danger of prejudice.”

Cisgender? A term invented and that came into usage in the 1990s? Oh those hateful bigots of the Middle Ages, with their backward insistence upon a sense of personal identity and gender that actually corresponded with their birth sex!

6 comments:

  1. Life provided significant obstacles for those who were not fully-abled, white, wealthy, Christian, heterosexual, cisgender males

    Can you imagine being the person who wrote these ghastly comments, which parody themselves? To be so contaminated by ideological imperatives that you miss out on the true beauty of the illuminations? I'm sorry you were blindsided by this nonsense, Heather, but sorrier still for the author.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I mean give me a pre-paid break already! See Flannery O remark below. What's sad, Bill, is that the manuscripts themselves were of course gorgeous. And the de Hamel book is a real gem--an almost child-like enthusiasm and invitation to explore illuminated manuscripts from a so-not-stuffy scholar. As always, I love hearing from you. Thank you!

      Delete
  2. A person who is blinded by ideology will have a hard time seeing beauty and truth.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The birds, flowers, and trees "know"....thanks, dear Michael.

      Delete
  3. What naivete to think that the elimination of certain types will make the world a less evil place!It was tried in the Soviet Union with the elimination of Christianity and the family.The result was more evil. Ditto in Cambodia with the elimination of the bourgeoisie.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Exactly, Martin! And to overlay a political ideology on art somehow ruins it. Flannery O'Connor observed, "The novel is an art form and when you use it for anything other than art, you pervert it." The same could be said for illuminated manuscripts. Thanks so much; always nice to hear from you.

      Delete

I WELCOME your comments!!!