Modern Art: Ackland

Our trip to the Ackland was a completely new experience for me, and while I most definitely enjoyed it, there were certain pieces that I felt did not deserve to be a part of any exhibit, specifically The Batture Ritual by Jeff Whetstone,  and Looking At The Sea by Howard Hodgkin. I believe both pieces are creative in their respective ways, but placing these pieces of art in Ackland feels like a slight against the creative spirit of art. Art, to me, evokes emotion, and these works failed to do so in unique ways.

To start, The Batture Ritual is most definitely an artistic piece of work, but I do not consider it to be a piece of art. I fully accept that I may be uncultured in this regard, but watching a video of a river with things occasionally happening on screen revoked little to no emotion from me, and I was forced to get up and stand before I dozed off. The concept behind this work is a solid one, and video is definitely a great medium for conveying emotion and feeling, but this piece failed to do that, and in doing so failed to reach its desired status of “art piece”.

In Contrast, Looking At The Sea succeeded in drawing emotions out of me, but it failed to bring out anything meaningful. I was mainly agitated, because I personally didn’t consider this to be anything. It looked nearly exactly like the art I made at my RA’s event in Ehaus,  and that was most definitely not a piece of art. The lack of structure, as well as the seemingly mediocre method this work was done it made it feel as if someone was pulling a prank on the class by showing us this art. I know my reaction wasn’t unique, as both Robert and Sam found the art to be pointless.

I personally didn’t find them to be art, but I also agree that I may be in the wrong here. Art is incredibly subjective, and this is just my perspective on two of the works we saw at Ackland. I may not agree with them but I do understand that they may hold some value to others, and I can respect that.

Monster: The Blank Slate

I believe that the Monster (who will be referred to as Frank) was an example of the “Tabula rasa” branch of philosophical thinking. Tabula rasa is a centuries old idea, originating from the works of Aristotle. Aristotle’s original idea states that the mind is similar to a wax seal, and that an impression must be made to create the personality and intelligence of a person. This theory is also the basis for the nurture train of thought, which states many of the same things. I believe this applies to Frank in three different ways; His childlike innocence, interactions with humans, and lack of control over his own faculties placed Frank into an unwinnable position.

Frank’s innocence is portrayed throughout the first volume in “When I looked around I saw and heard of none like me. Was I, a monster, a blot upon the earth from which all men fled and whom all men disowned?”. This quote describes Franks difficulty coming to terms with who he was, and what others were in relation to him. Frank struggles to see why he is ostracized from other “Humans”, as this is because he hasn’t come to the realization that others don’t consider him human. This leads directly into Franks second dilemma.

Frank is constantly trying to compare himself to humans before he fully realizes that others do not consider him to be so.  His first experience with a human is quite literally his father being disgusted with him, and everything afterwards was downhill. The french family in the woods may have pushed him over the edge because they were very likely his last chance at being normal and accepted. These experiences culminate when Frank speaks to Victor saying, “All men hate the wretched; how then, must I be hated, who am miserable beyond all living things! Yet you, my creator, detest and spurn me, thy creature, to whom thou art bound by ties only dissoluble by the annihilation of one of us.” which shows that Frank has been fully stripped of his innocence and become a fit for the descriptions that are being given to him by others.

“Was there no injustice in this? Am I to be thought the only criminal, when all human kind sinned against me?” shows that Frank understands what others think of him, and fully understands what he had done in terms of the murders and sins he committed against Victor and his family. Frank doesn’t show remorse, only sorrow that no one had taken the time to understand why he was doing what he did. His upbringing was out of his control, and the few things Frank could control were stripped away from him (getting a wife, meeting others) by others, and this sent him far over the edge.

Frankenstein fully comes to term with who he is when he says “The fallen angel becomes the malignant devil. Yet even the enemy of God and man had friends and associates in his desolation; I am alone.”. I believe that Frank’s circumstances molded him into the monster he eventually became, and that the Tabula rasa theory applied specifically to him because of his extraordinary birth circumstances. Tabula rasa explains exactly where Victor went wrong with Frank, and that if any of those three overarching themes had been positive, the story of Frank would be drastically different.

(all quotes from our book)



Robinson Crusoe: The Perfect Protagonist?

Robinson Crusoe is, without a doubt, a terrible person masquerading as someone with selfless morals and pure intentions. Crusoe is selfish, rude, and thinks of himself before all others. He considers himself to be some sort of benevolent savior, as shown in this quote:

“It was remarkable too, we had but three Subjects, and they were of three different Religions. My Man Friday was a Protestant, his Father was a Pagan and a Cannibal,and the Spaniard was a Papist: However, I allow’d Liberty of Conscience throughout my Dominions: But this is by the Way.”

The problem with this quote is that Robinson Crusoe sees himself as a good person for allowing freedom of religion on HIS island. Remember, this is the same island Crusoe likened to hell tens of times. However, once others show up Crusoe immediately claims the island as his and places himself at the top of the hierarchy. A case can be made that Crusoe is only acting in terms of his colonialist upbringing, but I think this idea can be thrown at the window when taking various actions of Crusoe into account. For example, Crusoe was raised in a strictly religious household, yet when being tested he immediately assumed god had abandoned him and allowed himself to be seeded with doubt. Crusoe immediately disregards his extremely religious upbringing saying,

“How mercifully can our Creator treat His creatures, even in those conditions in which they seemed to be overwhelmed in destruction! How can He sweeten the bitterest providences, and give us cause to praise Him for dungeons and prisons! What a table was here spread for me in a wilderness where I saw nothing at first but to perish for hunger!”


so what’s to say he couldn’t do the same in terms of the colonialist influences of his life?

Despite his obvious flaws Crusoe’s “story” has captivated countless around the globe. We can ask ourselves “why?” as much as we’d like, but deep down the answer is evident. Stories are meant to transport you to another place, a place you can believe in and follow, and this is the most important aspect of the book. Defoe places a torch  the  protagonist and sets one of the most valuable examples of intertextuality throughout all forms of media. The Crusoe archetype is one that invades every aspect of media, from video games to paintings. The idea of a morally compromised character is not one we’re alien to, and is most likely a category that most of our favorite characters fall into. Our fascination with these characters is even a focus in media, with stories like The Dark Knight having an entire plot centered around the corruption of it’s main character. We’re fascinated by this idea because it’s what we can relate to on a base level.

Reading a story about a flawless protagonist is one that gets tiring quickly, and examples of this are abundant all throughout modern media. An example would be Superman having kryptonite introduced into his comics to humanize him to the reader. These stories contain protagonists who fail, fall, and sometimes dont get up. That’s what makes Crusoe’s story a fascinating read, the main character isn’t a thinly veiled analogy about the virtues of an ideology, it’s the story of a man struggling to find his way in a world that keeps throwing obstacles at him. We watch him stumble, fail completely, question his faith, and abandon hope time and time again yet the idea of this character is one that fascinates and inspires us to create. This makes Crusoe the perfect amalgamation of everything wrong about a story that keeps us engaged and interested, making him a truly imperfect, perfect, protagonist.