Monday, July 15, 2013

Google, Rembrandt, and Missing the Point

Today, if you haven't noticed, is Rembrandt van Rijn's 407th birthday.

There's a better than even chance that you did notice.  Google celebrated the famous artist's anniversary with a Doodle, a little bit of stylized art that embellishes the usual colorful Google name and logo at the center of the homepage.

Today, instead of the usual colorful Google greeting us, we found the darker, brooding style of Rembrandt's usual art.  And where the Google name appeared, instead of the usual particolor style we found a dark, narrow style that fades away behind an image of the painter himself.

It caught my eye but I didn't think too much about it until I found this little tidbit in the news.  And I can safely say that he has gotten the interpretation 100% wrong.

The very good news here is that I can safely say it because it is my opinion.  My opinion is only that, an opinion.  It is not a statement of fact, just of interpretation.

But if you read the fellow's article, you see that he is less than impressed with Google's homage to Rembrandt because it isn't impressive.

Well, of course it isn't.  It's not Rembrandt, it's an homage.  It's a quick bit of art equipped with a hotlink to throw you to a page of links that will give you a big slice of Rembrandt, a big thick slice that will cut through the layers of his life and give you the chance to really appreciate not just the artist, but the man.  But even here we haven't come to the main reason why Jones is wrong.

Here's the main reason:

Google is not obligated to do anything whatsoever.  You could have clicked your internet connection this morning and been met by the usual white background, colorful letters and the search box.  And you would have gone about your business with no problems...just like right now.  Even with its Doodle, Google continues to function as you expect.  It doesn't detract from your experience, it doesn't require you click on a tiny hidden x to make the image go away.  It's just there.  Explore or don't, it's up to you.

The point of art is to make you think, to convey an idea, to raise awareness.  It isn't merely putting a word on a page but an attempt to capture a moment in time or a thought.  Any fool can write.  I can write.  Jonathan Jones can write.  But I cannot paint and neither, I suspect, can Jones.  What Jones can do is criticize, which unfortunately places him in the sights of no less a philosopher than George Burns.  I'd like to point out that George Burns was a lot more of a contemporary of Rembrandt than Jones will ever be, so perhaps we should consider George's wisdom with more than just a chuckle.

At least a few people now know a lot more about Rembrandt, today, than they did yesterday.  They know what they know because they had their curiosity piqued by Google's Doodle, clicked some links and made some discoveries.  And unfortunately now we have this classist, this overeducated, snobbish nob who thinks that just because he's some sort of authority - we won't clarify exactly what sort - that his opinion is right and others' are wrong.  It's more important to remember that what he's spewing is OPINION.  It isn't factual.

If you clicked the Doodle and learned some things, great!  More power to you.  If you are a painter, much more power to you and I hope you cast a deaf ear on the critics.  Do what moves you, not what moves them.  Not unless you're doing a commission, in which case do whatever it takes to earn the bucks so you can afford to do what moves you.  That is what art is about.  Self expression, not repression.  So thanks to you, Google, for providing what no one asked, for reaching beyond when no one expected.  And Mr. Jones, shut your mouth and let the teachers teach, if you don't have anything helpful to add.

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