So part of the impetus for this blog is that I am currently abroad on a new media and digital photography program with Carleton College, and we will be spending several weeks in Barcelona, Berlin, and Copenhagen (in that order), said adventure having begun officially this past Monday. Beyond theory and musings and other fun pursuits, this blog is for the time being also a way of sharing with people who know my real-life self (not just my digital data-self) what I’m up to while I’m away from home, since most of what I’m up to will pertain extensively to what my budding semi-optic explorations are all about.
Barcelona has a wealth of great art museums and cultural centers with exhibitions, some of which are free and many of which are at least cheaper for students (c’est moi!), which makes Barcelona a great place to be for engaging with the ‘high culture’ end of visual studies. So far I’ve been to MACBA (Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona), MNAC (Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya), and Arts Santa Monica. Having recently taken Critical Methods at Carleton, I am currently very intrigued in museums-as-texts, and how they structure our viewing practices – when I go to art museums, I usually book it for the most Modern or Contemporary sections in the building, but last Thursday when my friend Edee and I hit MNAC, I decided to challenge myself and start with the older stuff.
The art was displayed in a vaguely chronological layout, from Gothic to Renaissance and Baroque, which highlighted both the evolution of Western painting in terms of technologies (I could pinpoint the introduction of perspective, and the transition from making children look like tiny adults to actually looking like children) and the evolution of Spain’s depiction of its Catholicism, since all of the art in the institution is by Catalan artists, and Spain is definitely (at least historically) a Catholic place. Consistent subjects of Sant Jordi (Saint George) and the dragon, various stages of Christ’s life, evolved before my eyes as I worked through the museum.
With the increasing realism in the art, I couldn’t help noticing how much gorier and potentially sexualized (in my interpretation) a lot of the imagery became – jugulars spurting blood and severed tendons, bulging codpieces, positively evil-looking lizard-like dragons and demons. I’m not well-versed in these particularly areas of art history per se, but from a cultural-critical perspective, there seemed to be a lot of potential for analysis, and a lot of potential for the next Lady Gaga video. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to see her dressed in something like this for her next awards show appearance.