When was the last time you found yourself “talking” to an object in front of you? When we are young, we have an innate tendency to want to anthropomorphize objects we find before us. Once we’re grown up, it seems like the power of making stories with our imaginary friends has entirely disappeared! We see things, but what are we looking at? The feelings we get from seeing things in the adult world are easily manipulated by the cultural and political values ingrained in us by society and by the automatic evaluations we make having to do with ideas like beauty and ugliness. For example, online communities in mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan recently erupted in debate over ideas on the beauty or ugliness of CCTV’s monkey mascot and the production designs for Taiwan’s lantern festival. Even though we all know that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, beauty is also a matter of ideology, and elite intellectuals are not the only ones entitled to an opinion.

 

Nevertheless, how can ordinary people train their eyes to feel a certain way and then think when they see something? Theories on the recognition of art and beauty are nothing to quibble about. Taking more time to observe the world around oneself is a good start. While “visiting” art exhibitions and galleries hardly counts as an artistic endeavor in itself, I believe that one of the most satisfying features of visual and spatial art is its ability to “speak” to people face-to-face. What are our truest feelings when we see things? Of course, not everything that is designed can be considered art or become art. Are pieces of art and other objects intrinsically beautiful or not? Are they ugly or not? Are they relevant or not? Do they adhere to common tastes or not? Do they have a market value? There is absolutely no correlation between the answers to these questions and the greatness of a piece of art. These things may become collectible pieces of art because they made it past the cultural gatekeepers of various eras, but that does not necessarily mean that the best materials, the best techniques, or the most popular styles were used in their creation.

 

The vague definitions of art that certain people artificially create, however, are exactly what make the experience of viewing an exhibit such a game of speculations and interpretations. In addition to looking, we also have to think. Only by finding ambiguities can one enhance one’s inner design and creative cognition. In the case of the MOMA Picasso Sculpture Exhibition in New York (ending 2/7), it has been reported that among the more than 140 pieces displayed from six decades of Picasso’s artistic career are some previously unknown works. Picasso used objects that are widely recognizable in daily life for his large installations assembled from small stones, screws, scrap metal, pieces of wood, and plaster. Some of his artworks were toys he created for his son. He showed ingenuity in obtaining the best local raw materials and using them to give anthropomorphic expressions to all kinds of animal shapes. In particular, his creative works reveal innocence within the adult world.

 

I love to watch the people at the exhibit. While many people like to cruise around, circling the gallery space and only stopping to look at each work for a few seconds, others seem to be more than willing to ponder and puzzle in front of the artwork that interested them. Taking advantage of the exhibition crowd, it was easy for me to get photographs of people’s expressions and amusing perspectives while they were focused on viewing the pieces. Their faces were curious and filled with wonder, inadvertently interacting with the exhibits. It was like they were beckoning us to join the game. It was as if we were “speaking” with those imaginary friends once again…

 

還記得上次跟你眼前看到的東西用心“說說話”是什麼時候的事?小時候我們與生俱來對某些東西的情感所產生擬人化的童言童語,長大後好像都消聲匿跡了!我們是看到了,但是看到了什麼? 大人世界裡看到東西的感覺很容易被社會上刻版印象裡的美醜左右或文化價值觀所操弄。譬如最近兩岸三地的網路社群為了大陸央台猴年吉祥物和台北元宵燈節主燈設計的美醜觀點鬧得沸沸騰騰,一片喧譁聲中,許多似是而非的評論似乎讓鄉民們都搖身一變成了美學專家。儘管每個人對美的感覺其實就像情人眼裡出西施,是一種意識形態,也不是只有菁英份子才享有評論的專利。

 

但是一般大眾要如何訓練自己看東西的感覺呢?對藝術和美感的認知絕對不是咬文嚼字的理論,或只是埋頭苦幹閱讀文字訊息。用心去觀察生活周遭的事物是一個好的起頭,另外,“逛”美術館看藝術品並不是附庸風雅之舉,能和展覽品面對面用心“說說話”其實是視覺和空間藝術最令人心滿意足的功能之一。我們看東西最真實的感覺是什麼?當然,不是每件設計過的東西都可以成為藝術,藝術品和東西本身的美不美?醜不醜?合不合適?符不符合大眾口味?具不具市場價值?都沒有絕對相關性。那些成了藝術蒐藏品的東西也許是經過了文化把關人不同時期的鑑賞和評估,但不見得就是用最好的材質,最棒的技巧或是最受歡迎的題材所創作出來的。

 

然而,也正因為這些人為條件限制所造就出的模糊定義,看展覽就像一個動腦遊戲,除了看還要想,才能增強推測,詮釋和創意思考的能力。以這次畢卡索在紐約MOMA的雕塑大展為例(2/7 結束),據報導140多件展品貫穿他六十年的藝術生涯都是一些他過去不為人知的作品。他廣泛使用各類日常生活中可發現的題材,小到石子,螺絲釘,破銅爛鐵,大到木材和石膏組裝而成的大型裝置都有。有些是畢卡索為他兒子做的玩具。他就地取材的巧思將各類動物的特性經由擬人化的造型表達出來,特別能激發出大人世界裡的童心。

 

我喜歡在展場「偷窺」其他人的動向。大部份的觀眾順著人潮和展場動線蜻蜓點水一番,有些認真熱情的觀眾卻在他們喜歡的展品前沈思徘徊。趁著展覽人潮,我順手拍下了一些觀眾看展時專注的神情和有趣的角度,他們一臉的好奇和充滿童趣的展品間不經意地互動,似乎正在邀請我們,再一次用心和這些想像空間裡的朋友面對面“說說話”~~

 

地點:紐約現代美術館 (MOMA)
配樂:特別剪接了 Danzón No. 2, 是墨西哥當代作曲家 Arturo Márquez (1950 – )代表作。