Art(h)ist\’ry

the ARTistry of ARThistory occasionally done ARTfully

Seeing Space Socially: Part 2

Posted by gninja on September 22, 2006

Returning to the Middle Ages, and to the space of Paris, a couple of monuments reveal the applicability of Lefebvre’s comments (but just one will be discussed here). Remember that, in the passage of his cited below, he points out the error in subscribing to the notion that space is strictly segmented and defined narrowly by the function intended for an insulated area. Rather, space (geo/topographical, intellectual, political, etc.) is more fluid, accepting numerous significations bestowed upon it at different times, by diverse individuals, who are all aware to varying degrees of past and present meanings embedded in that space.

nautes-monument.jpg

(Pilier des Nautes, ca 14 – 37 CE)

Like Blue, this monument (aka “Pillar of the Boatmen“) depends upon the past for its success as a structure. Specifically, this monolith incorporates elements of the Celtic pagan religion that existed in Lutece prior to the Roman arrival, representation of Roman gods, a dedication to the Roman emperor, and images of the local boatmen who commissioned it. This pillar is a model for how newer cultures can successfully dominate their predecessors. Rather than abolishing the worship of Celtic deities, and rather than limiting or effacing the presence of local populations in public art, this monument incorporates both. As a result, it pre-empts any resistance that might occur as an angered populace sees its cultural heritage being blotted out forcefully. Instead, this method blots out through a process of assimilation. Without the foundation of those older gods upon which to build, the Romans might have been hard pressed to establish any kind of religious allegiance among this northern population. Rather, they crash the pagan party and mingle their own Roman gods with the Celtic ones, and by the end of the toga party, it’s difficult to tell the difference.

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