Thursday, January 26, 2012

how can you house culture?

i took these photos ages ago, with my iPhone in the henie-onstad museum in norway. i neglected to note whose work they are, but i vaguely recall it was a scandinavian poet of some renown. i've been thinking a bit about culture the past few days and they seem to fit my thoughts.

it strikes me that the word culture has, like socialism, become a bit of a swear word. it provokes people with visions of snobby opera-goers or hipsters attending avante garde theatre performances or gallery openings. and of course opera and theatre and art are cultural artifacts, but isn't culture more than those things? culture is the whole of a society - the customs, the norms, the traditions, the language, the food. it's words, art, images, music, lamps, chairs.  it's also sports and concerts and films and yes, even television. it's such a broad word. but i think that sometimes we forget that.

our community is going to build a new "culture house" (or renovate the old one, that's not yet decided) and it's bringing out the community's emotions. some are provoked at the thought of latte-sipping fashionistas on the square with their little boutique doggies (an unlikely sight in the countryside, but apparently a fear, just the same). those who are provoked that art and theatre might have a place in our town want the money to go to a sports facility instead.

but it's all a matter of categorization and prioritization, isn't it? and both exhibition space and a place to play handball have their place in a community. they give us different aspects of culture. because culture is multi-faceted. and multi-fascinating. and although i'm now involved in this, i'm also an observer, an anthropologist, amazed at the breathtaking speed at which committees are formed and factions delineated. and people provoked at the notion that there might be a space for the local ladies to quilt or for the big mess of a ceramics workshop. instead of space for a bunch of sweaty people to chase a ball around.

hmm, i guess you can see which aspect of culture i prefer...

stay tuned, this isn't over yet. not by a long shot.


Bee said...

The word verification is "cuplatio." Just strikes me as funny. I wonder if you could serve lattes at your new cultural center as long as you call them cuplatios?

Words sure do come with a freight of connotations. There was a funny article in the recent Vanity Fair about "ladies who lunch." Apparently the writer had a really difficult time getting any of the NYC socialites to cop to that term -- much less the notion that they might go to lunch!

The Gardener In A Green Dress said...

Well I guess this douses a little of my unbridled jealousy of you for living in such beautiful and wealthy place. I guess no matter where you go, there's always a majority who are inordinately preoccupied with balls.