While I have lived in the southern United States most of my life, I have mostly known I live in a cultural wasteland. Most natives find themselves daydreaming of the good old days of yore while I do the same. I have studied the era of my parents–the art, the culture, the music–I know it all too well. Lest we forget, nostalgia can be wild and wily.
I have just spent my summer in the green pastures of western Germany. I have found here a people that decry their checkered past; there is no nostalgia, only history. Despite this, some can find a semblance of pride from what art has left to them. They can appreciate music, sculptures, architecture, art and everything that makes life more colorful: and it shows.
Even my relatively small city boasts quite an elaborate concert hall and opera house. Flowers line the streets and bus stops. Sculpted fountains with strange themes of alcoholism and misspent youth are sprinkled throughout the town. It is culture, it is art, it is the greener grass.
From where Allies had leveled buildings and destroyed entire cities, they have rebuilt anew with modern and post-modern architecture. They have rebuilt historical buildings untied by history to the world wars. Incredible gothic churches tower most cities, offering to God the best they could do.
Office buildings are something more than a place for ones workers to work. They are modern, efficient, and appeal as much as utilitarian beehives can. City after city, I saw only this design or the exemplary Germanic architecture. I saw only very modern art and sculptures.
From what is my own conjecture, these buildings stand so artful and streets lined with color in order to usher in the future–to declare that nostalgia has no purpose. It is to ensure that no one daydreams of the good old days of yore and the passed remains past.
I now wonder if this is what it takes for art to penetrate the minds and hearts of the natives of the south. Is it only when faced with inexplicable horror and default of identity that one can appreciate art and culture? Or is it only when one wants to make anew–to brush off their issues, capture them in a moment and leave it to those who might need it thereafter?
This post was originally written for the Paper ‘n Stitch blog in August of 2008.