Portal:The arts

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T H E   A R T S   P O R T A L

The arts are a very wide range of human practices of creative expression, storytelling and cultural participation. They encompass multiple diverse and plural modes of thinking, doing and being, in an extremely broad range of media. Both highly dynamic and a characteristically constant feature of human life, they have developed into innovative, stylized and sometimes intricate forms. This is often achieved through sustained and deliberate study, training and/or theorizing within a particular tradition, across generations and even between civilizations. The arts are a vehicle through which human beings cultivate distinct social, cultural and individual identities, while transmitting values, impressions, judgments, ideas, visions, spiritual meanings, patterns of life and experiences across time and space.

Prominent examples of the arts include architecture, visual arts (including ceramics, drawing, filmmaking, painting, photography, and sculpting), literary arts (including fiction, drama, poetry, and prose), performing arts (including dance, music, and theatre), textiles and fashion, folk art and handicraft, oral storytelling, conceptual and installation art, philosophy, criticism, and culinary arts (including cooking, chocolate making and winemaking). They can employ skill and imagination to produce objects, performances, convey insights and experiences, and construct new environments and spaces.

The arts can refer to common, popular or everyday practices as well as more sophisticated and systematic, or institutionalized ones. They can be discrete and self-contained, or combine and interweave with other art forms, such as the combination of artwork with the written word in comics. They can also develop or contribute to some particular aspect of a more complex art form, as in cinematography.

By definition, the arts themselves are open to being continually re-defined. The practice of modern art, for example, is a testament to the shifting boundaries, improvisation and experimentation, reflexive nature, and self-criticism or questioning that art and its conditions of production, reception, and possibility can undergo.

As both a means of developing capacities of attention and sensitivity, and as ends in themselves, the arts can simultaneously be a form of response to the world, and a way that our responses, and what we deem worthwhile goals or pursuits, are transformed. From prehistoric cave paintings, to ancient and contemporary forms of ritual, to modern-day films, art has served to register, embody and preserve our ever shifting relationships to each other and to the world. (Full article...)

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Comme des Garçons
A collection of garments designed by the Japanese fashion label Comme des Garçons, on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Founded in 1969 by Rei Kawakubo and established as a company in 1973, the brand's name is inspired by a line from Françoise Hardy's song "Tous les garçons et les filles". It gained popularity in Japan through the 1970s, before making its debut Paris show in 1981, where Kawakubo's heavy use of black, as well as distressed fabrics and unfinished seams, were viewed negatively by critics. Comme des Garçons produced many unusual styles through the 1980s and 1990s, many of which were disliked by experts, but nonetheless grew into a large commercially successful enterprise. The company has boutique stores in several countries, exhibits its main collections annually at the Paris Fashion Week, and also runs a line of perfumes.

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Photo of Sylvanus G. Morley, circa 1912

Sylvanus Morley was an American archaeologist, epigrapher, and Mayanist scholar who made significant contributions towards the study of the pre-Columbian Maya civilization in the early 20th century. He is particularly noted for his extensive excavations of the Maya site of Chichen Itza. He also published several large compilations and treatises on Maya hieroglyphic writing, and wrote popular accounts on the Maya for a general audience. To his contemporaries he was one of the leading Mesoamerican archaeologists of his day; although more recent developments in the field have resulted in a re-evaluation of his theories and works, his publications (particularly on calendric inscriptions) are still cited. Overall, his commitment and enthusiasm for Maya studies would generate interest and win the necessary sponsorship and backing to finance projects which would ultimately reveal much about the Maya of former times. His involvement in clandestine espionage activities at the behest of the U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence was another, surprising, aspect of his career, which came to light only well after his death. (Full article...)

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