EMBODIMENT, AN EXPRESSION OF WESTERN PRAGMATISM
By Zinat Motahari
MA, University of Tehran
The distinction between Western and Eastern art has always been in the approach toward the spiritual and the material worlds.
While the East confides the description of the material world as abstract as possible, the West approaches towards the artistic re-presentation of concepts in the most concrete form.
Yet, another artistic distinction in the two civilizations is the realistic approach towards the re-presentation of ugly and the evil.
The aesthetic distance that is still observed in almost all types of re-presentation of the evil in the Eastern culture is no more recognized in the West.
The Chatterbox comic-strips of the primary English language courses with the four messy monster characters are well known in Iran's language institutes.
The teachers and learners of ESL feel stranger with the cartoons that have become a common part of the Western child and will remain with him/her throughout adult life.
The nasty and frightening ogres are as serious and real in the western world as elves and angels are, so they have an equal share of being depicted.
The pragmatic mentality in dealing with both good/bad and ugly/beautiful dichotomies has entered the children books and arts in the last decades.
Meanwhile, the fusion of the traditional beautiful/good and ugly/bad binaries that maintains embodiment of the good in the beautiful and the bad in the ugly brings the confusion in interpreting the symbolic re-presentation.
The nasty creatures in western artistic production sometimes represent the inherent contrast in the inner and in the appearance, as it is exemplified in the Hunchback of Notre Dame or the Snow White dwarf ogres.
Nevertheless, the Frankenstein type ugliness serves an unknown purpose by naturalizing the ugly and the evil to the child's unconscious mind, leaving the judgment to the individual's rationality.
“Not all fairies are beautiful,” Garcia explained. “You have to go to the dark side sometimes to find beauty" says Alba Garcia, 37, a Porto Rican-American graphic designer and a professional doll maker.
The remark reveals the sheer absorption to the ugliness for the sake of ugliness.
An NBC blog on Tuesday introduced Alba as a "Bronx doll-maker who brings fairies, elves, and goblins to life" in her dolls.
Scarlet Rockefire, Elerya, a skilled cartographer with hooves, Mama Gumbe who tries to bring order to the world with furrows in her brows, Aldan, one of the three elder wise and seers of legendary Kamiir, Rumpelstiltskin, who seduces frail women, Aletheia, who cures all soothes with her healing hands, Elder Sophia, the greatest storyteller, Syrenne, … are among the Western legendary characters drawn from the worlds of fantasy, science fiction and goth and re-created in Alba's dolls.
Giving life to the creatures that have since been living in the lines of books is another sign of the tendency to deal with everything, be it the world of fantasy, in the most tangible way.
“I believe in my dolls,” Alba says “I believe they bring out the deepest expression of human nature.”
Nevertheless, the belief in the power of embodiment has melted the dichotomies that are traditionally contrasted in the Eastern culture via "exaggeration" in the black-and-white re-presentation that assures the distinction is made by the audience between the antagonist and the protagonist.
Alba believes that real and deep human emotions, values and beliefs can be dramatized into the material shape of the dolls. With this considered, her dolls are recreating the sense of horror, death, fantasy, and pleasure altogether to the child.
The fantastic absorption of the Western art to the world of ugly concepts is gaining widespread zeal with no tendency to stop as the happy ending of Shrek preferring to remain a monster suggests.
“It makes my students step into another dimension, and into themselves” Alba explains the impact of her workshops on the students. It indicates how the dolls are expressions of the makers' inner side beside the impact they might have in shaping the inner of the visitors.