Writing history is an act of interpretation. Creating art about history further separates past events from the final.
What happens when an artwork tells a story that distorts an actual event? What if that “distorted” artwork communicates a historical “truth”?
Below is a famous image from a civil rights protest in Birmingham. The image tells a powerful story. It turns out that the actual events leading up to the image and the people involved tell a much different story than one we would infer simply by looking at the image.
There is a sculpture, based on the above image, that tells an even more dramatic story pictured below. What does it mean if the artwork, though powerful, does not accurately tell the actual story of the events it is depicting? What if it tells the truth of the brutality of the crackdown on the civil rights movement through inaccurately depicting an event? What does all this say about the power of artwork? The connection between history and art?
Below is a link to Malcolm Gladwell’s podcast that discusses these issues.
“But it is increasingly clear that the mind is mainly drawn to the future, not driven by the past. Behavior, memory and perception can’t be understood without appreciating the central role of prospection. We learn not by storing static records but by continually retouching memories and imagining future possibilities. Our brain sees the world not by processing every pixel in a scene but by focusing on the unexpected.”
Why are people so reluctant to change their minds? This well-researched and well-presented cartoon delves into that very important question. It also helps elucidate the relationship between emotion and reason when our belief system is challenged.
“There is no scientific evidence that we are hardwired with emotions, says Lisa Feldman Barrett. They develop as we grow.”
“Emotions are thought to be a kind of brute reflex, very often at odds with our rationality. This internal battle between emotion and reason is one of the great narratives of western civilisation. It helps define you as human. Without rationality, you are merely an emotional beast. This view of emotions has been around for millennia. Plato believed a version of it. So did Hippocrates, Aristotle, the Buddha, René Descartes, Sigmund Freud and Charles Darwin. Today, prominent thinkers such as Steven Pinker, Paul Ekman and the Dalai Lama also offer up descriptions of emotions rooted in the classical view.
“And yet there is abundant scientific evidence that this view cannot possibly be true. Research has not revealed a consistent, physical fingerprint for even a single emotion. When scientists attach electrodes to a person’s face and measure muscle movement during an emotion, they find tremendous variety, not uniformity. They find the same variety with the body and brain. You can experience anger with or without a spike in blood pressure. You can experience fear with or without a change in the amygdala, the brain region tagged as the home of fear.”
People seem to believe that kids today engage in risky behavior at far greater rates than previous generations did but the research shows that the opposite is true. Teens today do drugs, drink alcohol, get pregnant, and smoke cigarettes at lower rates than other teens have for the past thirty years. At the same time, though, people don’t believe that is the case? Why is that?
Part of this is the amount of media attention and awareness that which creates an example of an availability bias. With 24 hour news coverage on multiple channels in addition to social media driving news consumption, sensational stories stand out in our minds and cause us to misperceive actual trends.
The causes of this are also connected to the same factors that cause humans to be very bad at judging risks. Scary stories overwhelm us and make us believe in incorrect ideas.
Below are some interesting resources that provide data which is not sensational but presents some truth on the subject matter.
Today’s Teens are more than alright
Today’s teens use less…than you did
The rapid decline in teen births is a huge public health success story
Teens doing better: Why don’t adults believe it?
“One reason people’s fears don’t line up with actual risks is that our brains are wired by evolution to make fast judgements which are not always backed up by logical reasoning. “Our emotions push us to make snap judgments that once were sensible—but may not be anymore,” Maia Szalavitz, a child psychiatrist, wrote in 2008 in Psychology Today.”
“From gigil to wabi-sabi and tarab, there are many foreign emotion words with no English equivalent. Learning to identify and cultivate these experiences could give you a richer and more successful life.”
“In the future, Lomas hopes that other psychologists may begin to explore the causes and consequences of these experiences – to extend our understanding of emotion beyond the English concepts that have dominated research so far.”