Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Artsy Wednesday: Cafe Culture, Untouched

We are living in tumultuous times. Maybe it feels that way more than usual right now, given the constant barrage of "change" talk, the anxiety and histrionics that come with any presidential election, and the volatility of the stock market. I don't know. Either way, after reading and writing yesterday about van Gogh's use of artificial light in his paintings, I had change on the mind.

In so many ways, we communicate differently now than we did in the time of van Gogh. Most of my interactions, on a daily basis, are via email, the internet, or by phone (mobile or otherwise) - none of which were available to van Gogh. That's exciting, but disconcerting, too. At some point do we lose some part of our humanity.

These are the things I think about.

Fortunately, I talked myself out of the dehumanizing spiral. How? By comparing these two images:

The scene on the left is, of course, van Gogh's Cafe Terrace at Night, a cafe in Arles painted in 1888. On the left is a Paris cafe photograph I found on Flickr (thank you, Tavallai). It was taken just over a year ago, nearly 120 years after van Gogh's scene was painted.

I'm sure some of the patrons of that Parisian cafe are huddled over mobile phones, texting away, instead of scribbling in their Moleskine notebooks, Hemingway-style. But for the most part, it's just people sitting, drinking coffee, talking and reading. Carrying on centuries-old activities.


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