Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Ark

Save us!

Last night I was thinking through a scenario. What if the world was a dead lump, humanity wiped out through a cataclysm of some sort; nuclear war (50's), ice age (60's), resource depletion (70's), nanobots (80's), killer virus (90's), or global warming (00's).

Nobody is left. In a cave deep under the surface of the moon, safe for a few billion years, safe from the tectonic activity of Earth, and from meteorites, the knowledge of humanity is stored. It was so resource expensive to send things there that just ten great artworks were chosen. I was pondering which.

I thought; The complete works of Shakespeare (that counts as one!), Michelangelo's David, Beethoven's 9th Symphony (if not all nine), 1984 by George Orwell, Paradise Lost by John Milton...

but when it came to paintings I got stuck. Not the Mona Lisa surely! So, what IS the best painting in the world?

The answer matters.

Of course on some level it will always be a matter of opinion, but some paintings do have more universal appeal than others. Criteria are needed. For me it must be beautiful, and executed well, at least. I'd nominate Las Meninas I think, or The Seven Deadly Sings by Otto Dix, or The Fairy Feller's Master Stroke!

9 comments :

Kathy said...

Mark, I love your imagination! This is a great scenario to ponder. My answer would depend upon the reason for storing these works of art in the first place. I'll assume that there could be two scenarios: 1) the last batch of humans that decided to store the paintings were either hoping to survive and wanted to preserve the best of their culture, or 2) they realized they would soon die and hoped that archaeologist aliens from outer-space would find the stash of paintings and gain an understanding of what sort of beings once inhabited our planet. Depending on which scenario you choose, the selection of paintings would be quite different since survivors (scenario 1) would keep what is most precious to them and an archaeological record (scenario 2) would have to contain art that depicts the essence of humanity.

Mark Sheeky said...

So if 1 then Shakespeare and if 2, Gray's Anatomy?! Perhaps the aliens could comprehend the context of a painting even if they didn't empathise... would they find a Venus beautiful... could we appreciate a great looking chimpanzee? :)

Ooh, another scenario. Earth is threatened with destruction by a gargantuan alien spaceship, humans are considered a culturally inferior species. The aliens demand proof of the worthiness of human culture... what picture would help the case. I'm setting some tough standards today! I can't help but think that Thomas Kinkade might impress them more than Guernica. Oh, blasphemy!

Kathy said...

Hmmm...how to save ourselves under the threat of alien annihilation??? Since I my thoughts are only those of a lowly Earthling, it would be difficult to know what would impress a higher intelligence. Perhaps we should aim for confusing them and then they'll leave us alone. If I had to select one work of art to confuse them, it would be a Rothko.

-Don said...

I say to show the worthiness of humanity we should show the aliens something that shows we understand the damages that humanity has inflicted upon the earth which would hopefully show them we really care and want to change things. The perfect example of this, to me anyway, is Franz Marc's "The Fate of the Animals". If that doesn't work let's go with Kathy's idea... -Don

-Don said...

HEY, I just realized I got the word show into a sentence 4 times. Is that a new record?

PAMO said...

How 'bout DaVinci's drawings- historical and anatomically correct. Or I vote a collection of ancient cave drawings because they have always fascinated modern culture.

Kathy said...

Don - in your message you show us what it means to show a part of yourself in a way that shows us how adept you are at using the word "show," which shows me another reason why I like you show much! (Was that SIX?)

-Don said...

Kathy, I like you show much, as well. Thanks for the smile.

PAMO, Good idea with the cave drawings...

-Don

Mark Sheeky said...

Ooh, show off. Well it's hard to read an alien mind.

Leonardo's cat and dragon page is immaculate. I wish he finished more paintings though!