Arcadia. Digital Painting, 2020 (120x85cm)
In this blog post I want to share some background information about Arcadia, my 3rd ever NFT art drop on SuperRare.
Arcadia is a digital painting (120x85cm), an animation and music. It is a modern interpretation of Nicholas Poussin’s painting „The Arcadian Shepherds“ from 1637/1638, the leading painter of the classical French Baroque style.
„Arcadia“ is a poetic shaped place – a vision of harmony with nature, related to the concepts of „Paradise“ or „Utopia“. The original painting pictures a thombstone, located in paradise.The inscript says „Et In Arcadia Ego“. While it remains a bit mysterious, it was often interpreted as „even in paradise, there is death“.
Thanks for reading!
Jan 23, 2021
To listen, open Spotify on your mobile device, search and scan the barcode below.
Or, click here.
The soundtrack is a collaborative playlist, created with a friend of mine. He absolutely loves the original painting and encouraged me to dare a modern, or personal twist on it. We found that it had a lot of power and meaning during 2020 crisis year, so the painting inspired a lot of our talks over the past months. So much in it.
Looking at the painting, I thought the music must be very, very simple and somewhat „classic“. It should dance between paradise and something more darker.
I composed the audio on Arturia Keylab Midi Keyboard and recorded with Ableton Live.
The first female voice over is Toni Morrison (mentioning the „Concept of Good“). The second is me (citing Steve Jobs, when he died).
Finally, this is the original painting. So beautiful. Poussin’s most mysterious painting:
Nicholas Poussin, „The Arcadian Shepherds“ from 1637/1638, (120x85cm)
In the original painting, the inhabitants of Arcadia bear an obvious connection to the figure of the noble savage, both being regarded as living close to nature, uncorrupted by civilization. I exchanged the setting Arcadia (a region in Greek) against something like my own home mountains (Eiger, Mönch & Jungfrau in Bernese Oberland, Switzerland) which are something like my „happy place“. However, I changed their iconic appearance for sth like „endless repeat“ to symbol infinity, paradise and death. I replaced the „anonymous“ shepherds with Jesus, Sokrates, Confucius and Toni Morrison (why? More on that further below). The tomb stone reads „Et In Arcadia Ego“. All other details have symbolic meaning.
In my process, reading is often the biggest inspiration. Sometimes I take notes wich I share below. You might wonder, why I picked Socrates, Confucius, Jesus and Toni Morrison? Probably because they come from different walks of life, different times, but all have interesting thoughts on the topic of exploring paradise, life, death and what it means to live a good life.
Here are my notes from some books that I read recently. I am just repeating what the books & these great thinkers say, sometimes it is not even the „opinion“ that I personally share. However, maybe it inspires you as well:
Albert Kitzler. About the ancient philosophy of Socrates and Pythagoras:
Socrates and Pythagoras had some very similiar ideas to what I thought was more a thing of eastern religions: Philosophies that sound like yoga and meditation. However, these classic philosophers have been proposing the same already:
„An unexamined life is not worth living“ (Socrates). It is important to know your own needs (listen to your emotions).
The 3 ingredients for a happy life are inner peace, serenity and frugality.
The path to wisdom never stops. Always leave time for introspection in life.
Happiness means living balanced. For the ancient philosophers, work-life balance was called „peace of mind“ or also something like a „calm mind“.
Free yourself from internal and external constraints in order to be able to live independently (social norms, ideals of beauty, compulsion for a career, etc.).
„Die Chinesen: Psychogramm einer Weltmacht“. Stefan Barong & Guangyan Yin-Baron. (Sorry, I think this book is only available in german so far).
I think, we can learn a lot from the East, especially when it comes to things like solidarity and harmony in the community. Also, in political terms I find it crucial to understand why/how they act and think differently.
The Chinese live in two separate worlds: the family is everything, here you are honest, everyone looks out for each other. But in the outside world the law of strength and power rules. For this reason, chinese people are sometimes not so much interested in foreign people.
2 great thinkers determine the Chinese mind set:
Confucius (551-479 BC)
The aim of his teaching is to enable a life in harmony with other people and with nature. In contrast to the Christian idea, humans are not god-like individuals, but part of a society in which everyone has their place.
Harmony in society arises from the fact that every person cultivates himself. Self-perfection is considered to be the meaning of life. To do this, the Confucians go the middle way, which means they don’t think or act in extreme ways and try to understand the other side in conflicts.
Laotse (571 – 471 BC) // Taoism
Laotse was a hermit and viewed people not only as part of society but also as individuals. To this day he is revered by Chinese people who have their own mind and don’t want to live like everyone else.
Taoism: Basis of Chinese poetry and painting. His maxim is inaction. That means not to act quickly, too much, or unnecessarily, but only to do what is right, good and necessary. This is exactly the principle underlying the Chinese art of war and kung fu.
The Chinese strive for harmony within an existing hierarchy.
The focus of Chinese culture is the community and not the individual as we do in the West.
The family is so important to the Chinese that until around the year 1,000 they didn’t even have words for “I” and “we”. The family name also comes before the personal name in Chinese.
Hardly any private life. Everything happens under the eyes of the family. Therefore one behaves better adjusted, controlled and inconspicuous. Showing emotions openly, such as outbursts of anger, happy hugs, etc. is considered barbaric.
At school, children learn to show their love for their parents not through hugs, but through good academic performance. Those who are bad at school are screened out.
Inequality is perfectly fine for the Chinese. In the course of history they have learned that “leveling out” does not help their society.
For them, fairness means: equal opportunities and not equal income.
We in the West often strive for self-realization, the Chinese strive for self-perfection in order to live in perfect harmony within the existing hierarchy.
The Chinese think more practically and situationally than we do.
In the west we have been looking for absolute truth in logical analysis since Plato and Aristotle. Example: When a banknote flutters away from us at a red light, we think about breaking the rule. Chinese think differently. For them the truth lies in the current context, they jump right after the banknote. If a car comes, it will swerve.
Western reason is theoretical, Chinese more practical.
We in the west are looking for the only truth. The Chinese know a lot, depending on the situation. Therefore, laws are more like advice to them.
The Chinese are used to seeing opposites as a unit: Good and bad are facets of the same thing. Yin and yang.
The people in China are more relaxed about their fate and are more adaptable.
Doctrine of the Middle According to Confucius. You avoid extremes. They are looking for compromises. Ambivalences and grey areas are not a problem. A ruse is not reprehensible, but an expression of prudence.
Language and writing often determine how one thinks, feels, acts, etc. We have 28 letters, Mandarin has 10,000 characters.
Mandarin is a figurative language (concepts are composed of images),
The word „Landscape“ consists, for example, of „mountain“ and „water“.
The concept „Bipolarity“, e.g combines „enlightenment“ and „angry dog“.
The Chinese often lead a double life: within the family it is about harmony, adaptation and respect.
In public, the law of „survival of the fittest“ applies. It is simply considered pointless to be considerate of strangers.
Just like the truth, morality in China is situational.
Enormous economic boom: in 1980 the Chinese earned an average of $200 USD. In 2020 it will be $8,000.
The Chinese don’t long for human rights and democracy. However, “human rights” were developed by the Europeans.
Prosperity and stability are more important to the Chinese.
The Chinese trust their own government more than Germans.
China poses no foreign policy threat at all. Busy enough with internal affairs: managing economic and scientific progress, historically rather peace-loving. The Chinese have little sense of political mission.
See themselves more as global citizens than Chinese.
Their form of government (democracy) is completely irrelevant to them.
China is investing heavily in international infrastructure that can only function profitably in peace.
Conclusion of the author: We should see the country’s rise as an opportunity, not a threat.
Toni Morrison – The Bluest Eye
Toni Morrison expressed with her ideas about „The Concept of Good“ exactly what I had on my mind for a while but was not able to communicate in such clear words. She basically states that „Good“ is an incredible power and is not really investigated, nor implemented yet. Our society celebrates evil. Good is considered as weak. While, in reality, a focus on the evil is actually a „coward“ move (her example was how a cop shot a guy in the back because he said he was scared).
Anyways, just try the „good“ side for a week yourself (apply it on all levels) and see what it does! Incredibly powerful. Most certainly, the most radical positive change you’ll ever experience.
About „The Bluest Eye“. As this is a fiction book, I do not want to tell you the story line. For me, as white woman, growing up in the western world, this book is a revelation because it allows you insights into what it means to be black. It tells the story of Pecola, an African-American girl & gives insights on how it is and what it means to grow up as a “black” girl in the years following the Great Depression. Very humbling and very much eye-opening. A very interesting read if you want to learn about what it means to be black and about racism in the United States in particular.
Jesus & The Bible 😉
Well, no introduction needed, I guess. To he honest, I am not a fan of the church as an institution, nor do I believe in their god. Also I never read the whole bible, just certain chapters. However, the 10 commandments versus the 7 deadly sins are probably some evergreens 😉 (see my other animation „The Wild West“), deeply rooted into our culture, yet so often forgotten. My painting references a lot of symbols and details in that direction. The ones that I find to be meaningful.
Matthew 5:43, the Gospel of Matthew in the New Testament: „Love thy neighbour as thyself“.Very powerful in times, when our society is fragmented as never before (think the US after Trump) and listening/understanding to the other side could be the next super power.