By Dr. Margaret E. Stucki

Nordica as SelicaNordica as Selica
Books and statues are really not much more than memories for they are perishable, and the book which is not read or the painting which is not looked at cannot be called alive in the true sense of inhabiting someone's consciousness. So long as one is conscious of a work of art, so long it is alive. Old masters are old precisely because they never died; they are aged but still alive. It takes more than the act of creating to make a work of art live; indeed, it might be said that it only arrives at the status of "art" when it does live in the collective consciousness of a people. A man-made product can be contemporary as it pleases, but it has to fight for its right to exist as hard as any man ever struggled to keep alive. Contemporary means with time; time itself is a fugitive and that which was with time may very well also pass with it into oblivion. It is dangerous for the artist to flatter Time for like most flirts she is forever casting her eyes in the direction of the man who scorns her for higher things.

Arno Breker: The Fire of CreativityThe Fire of Creativity

For these reasons it is most important for the continued life of a culture to take care of its treasures for its young; colleges and museums are custodians in whose care we have placed our treasures. The responsibility of those in charge of these institutions is very great. Contact with the original works of art is the live wire through which flows the creative energy of a people. A civilization draws to its close when its people no longer honor their monuments or continue to build them.

The impulse to artistic expression can exist without becoming embodied in concrete forms. This might happen, for instance, in time of war where the artist is temporarily shouldering a rifle instead of setting up his easel. Whatever thoughts these people had are not recorded by history because they left no evidence of their being. Culture only comes into being when there is deposited by Time a definite amount of tangible material. The wisdom of Homer and Socrates was completely verbal, but other human beings became the living-paper upon which was recorded what they had said. And from the memory of one man it passed to the memory of another who, if he were literate, might choose to set it down in permanent form as Xenophon did in his "Memorabilia".

Related article: In Remembrance of Hermann Oberth - The Father of Space Flight

Copyright 1996 PROMETHEUS
Reprinted with permission