Tuesday, September 10, 2013

It's An Original – OR NOT

When I first started my blog, now years ago, I questioned the idea of originality, especially in the fields of art and philosophy, agreeing with Luc Sante:

"Originality, if there can ever be any such thing, will inevitably entail a quantity of borrowing, conscious and otherwise. The paradoxes pile up as thick as the debris of history — unsurprisingly, since that debris is our reality." The Fiction of Memory," NYT 3/14/10.

That raises the question: Do artists and philosophers actually create anything new or do they merely discover, over and over again, the same thing?  And do these "creations" represent images from our external environment or do they emanate from our inner world: archetypes of our unconscious?
The Thinker by Auguste Rodin cc 1904
Auguste Rodin did his first rendition of The Thinker cc 1904. If memory serves me correctly, he subsequently did 17 more variations on this theme. According to conventional western wisdom, Rodin's sculptures are masterpieces of individual genius and, as such, have become an image to represent thinking in general and philosophy in particular. 

Jungian psychology, however, would say the opposite: that the symbolic thinker is an archetype each of us carries within us in our collective unconscious. If the Jungians are correct, we would expect to see The Thinker archetype manifest itself through individual artists in other civilizations.

While visiting the Portland Art Musuem September 6th, I found a case in point from 1100-500 BCE.
Perforator, Mexico,  Olmec:  ca. 1100-500 BCE

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