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The Joy of Hiding Things in Art

In a BBC video, video journalist Adam Paylor gives us a good example for why things might be hidden in art: Besides assuming that people who see cryptomorphs in artwork might just be suffering from pareidolia, often one important reason for hiding things in art is neglected by art researchers: Hiding things in images can be fun!

Also from http://severnbeachantiques.com/famous-rare-1980-huntley-and-palmer-rude-garden-party-ginger-nuts-tin you can learn about a good reason for an artist to hide things in art:

I did them out of devilment, purely for a laugh. I’ve always been a bit of a naughty boy but I’ve nothing against Huntley & Palmers. There have been rumours that I got made redundant and did it out of revenge. But that’s not true – I was only ever a freelance. I just felt like adding a bit of smut to the proceedings.

That is what Mick Hill, the creator of the illustration of the Huntley & Palmers garden party ginger nuts tin, said about the hidden surprises in his artwork.

Thumb and Lappet

left]: Henry Holiday: Segment from a depictionof the Baker’s visit to his uncle (1876) in Lewis Carroll’s The Hunting of the Snark (engraved by Joseph Swain).

[center]: Doesn’t this thumb look more like a piece of cloth rather than like a thumb?

[right]: John Everett Millais: Redrawn Segment from Christ in the House of His Parents aka The Carpenter’s Shop (1850), at present on display at Tate Britain (N03584).

See also: snrk.de/page_sphinx#4panels | Twitter

Christ in the House of his Parents

Christ in the House of his Parents: Details from a stained glass window (Brechin Cathedral, source: BSMPG @ Twitter) by Henry Holiday and from a painting by J.E. Millais.

The images are quite different. Important things they have in common with other Carpenter’s Shop paintings are the depiction of Joseph as a real carpenter at work and the wood shavings.

Ballad Form in Victorian Poetry

Wikispaces being closed down. Therefore I mirrored the post Ballad Form in Victorian Poetry. It helps to understand the form of The Hunting of the Snark:

The article is the work of a student with the initials “CM” at Hobart and William Smith Colleges (partner institution of UVicEnglish), see the signature: CM/HWS/ENG 21. (Source: Alison Chapman)

(I also mirrored the wiki page on the Lewis Carroll Picture Book.)

Flat Earth

Image source: commons.wikimedia.org

One of my articles in this blog has the title What can Science reveal? This is the quest of the Snark (quoting Philo M. Buck, 1942). I think, that the question what science can reveal is only one among several quests of the Snark. Another quest might be, how science reveals the world and how science can be threatened. Here, flat earth theory is a good example. That theory does not only aim at reverting scientific findings, but also at damaging science itself. I don’t know whether Dodgson/Carroll took any interest in that theory and the related debates, but its history helps me to improve my understanding of popular science debates and businesses in the Victorian society at around the time when Lewis Carrol wrote The Hunting of the Snark.

This week in the New Yorker, Alan Burdick wrote an article about Looking for Life on a Flat Earth, What a burgeoning movement says about science, solace, and how a theory becomes truth (2018-05-30). Very regrettably, Burdick failed to mention Christine Garwood‘s book Flat Earth: The History of an Infamous Idea (2008). That shouldn’t happen in a magazine like the New Yorker. Didn’t Burdick read that excellent book before he wrote his article?

Garwood shows why and how science can be threatened and is being threatened. This includes John Hampden‘s (1819-1891) discrediting of journalists 1870 (p. 76), who probably had quite similar reasons for media bashing as Donald Trump had and openly described them in February 2016. If you want to make a living as influencer, you need to control the presentation of knowledge. To understand that is as important today as it was in the 19th century. It is amazing how similar the 21st century anti-scientific populism is to what happened since “Parallax” started his flat earth business in the Victorian Britain. And he meant business.

Truth Tweaking Tweets

Why Donald Trump Can’t Kill the Truth, by Errol Morris, TIME, 2018-05-22:

[…] What is so scary about the present time is that people believe that they can assert truth just by screaming louder than others or repeating themselves endlessly, like the Bellman in Lewis Carroll’s “The Hunting of the Snark”: “What I tell you three times is true.” […]

In my view, tweaking the truth is nothing new. But the ability to tweet the tweaked truth within a few seconds to millions of people makes the difference. It turns Trump’s language (as well as the language of Trump haters) into a wide spread epidemy.

Henry Holiday's BoojumI think that Carroll’s tragicomedy (or even tragedy?) The Hunting of the Snark is very much about what we are experiencing in these days: Legimate dispute (Snark) is turning more and more into toxic eristic (Boojum). And beware if it bites you, it’s contagious! Our pursuit of happiness can take many paths, therefore conflicts are unaviodable parts of our journey. But beware of the day, if your Snark be a Boojum! For then you will softly and suddenly vanish away, and never be met with again.

 


By the way: As for an on-line Snark, Morris’ article links to the Poetry Foundation. They do a good job, but Ebooks Adelaide offers a better on-line rendering of the poem. My version is based on an earlier Ebooks Adelaide version.

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