Art has a critical influence on society and culture because it determines opinions, instills values, and translates various experiences over different periods of time. Any form of art, including literature, painting, sculpture, or music, has the ability to preserve some cultural aspects that factual historical records are unable to recognize. Therefore, art serves as a form of communication between cultures and a possibility to share experiences through stories, images, or sounds. Art is also a strong driver of social change by giving a voice to the socially and politically disenfranchised individuals and provoking emotions or desire to change. Having a unique utilitarian influence on people, art makes people decide, investigate, and evaluate their physical and cultural environments. Art serves not only as a channel through which artists showcase their work and nurture their desire for self-fulfillment and expression but also as a source of information about political, economic, and social changes. However, Native American, Chinese, and Japanese experiences show how internationalization, urbanization, and globalization influence art, cultural preservation, and people’s desire to meet new standards and expectations, thus contributing to the inevitable disappearance of traditional culture.
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Traditional Art Compared to Modern and Contemporary Art
Traditional art is usually identified as a part of people’s culture with a number of skills and knowledge obtained through the centuries. Culture, traditions, emotions, and experiences are mixed up between generations and create a basis for new decisions, opinions, and ideas to be developed. Sometimes, it is easy for a person to understand the message sent by ancestors, and in some cases, the task is difficult and requires much work and effort to connect the present and the past. Traditional art gives identity to individuals and enables mutual cooperation at different levels while making them unique in terms of their cultural background, customs, and beliefs.
Contemporary and modern art are the forms of art that have emerged in recent times, compared to traditional art. The representatives of modern art were created during the period that started in the 1880s and ran through to the 1960s. Contemporary art followed modern art in the post-1960s period and still emerges to date. It is necessary to admit that modern and conventional art does not adhere to the forms that were supported by the representatives of traditional art. While traditional art mainly focused on realism and the way a person lives, modern and contemporary arts focus on a subjective depiction of issues that reflected the internal and external worlds of a society. Modern and contemporary art place more focus on surrealism as opposed to the events of real life. Technological advances, changes in human relationships, and personal freedoms determine the way of how arts are developed and stored in history.
Contemporary art incorporates various cultural, social, and political reformations that were experienced in the late 1900s. As a result, this form of art abandoned the rigid norms and standards that are evident in traditional art. Artists believed that they could change society and the already existing cultural aspects by addressing relevant topics like environmental pollution, globalization, human rights, and global warming. Therefore, contemporary art has resulted in significant social impact by allowing artists to be liberal and free to experiment with various styles. Such an approach is more attractive than the rigid traditional culture and has resulted in the gradual fading away of traditional culture and adoption of modern and contemporary art.
The disappearance of Traditional Culture and Art
Each culture has its unique characteristics, rules, and impact on people. It is impossible to identify which nation has a better cultural background or stronger beliefs. Therefore, instead of discussing the existing varieties, strengths, and weaknesses, it is better to focus on the distinctions. Despite the multiple abilities of people to resist the power of globalization, westernization, and technological progress, the disappearance of traditional culture is observed in different parts of the world, touching the representatives of Native Americans, Chinese, and Japanese societies.
Native American Art and Culture
Art has a very significant role in Native American culture. It has been used as a means of expression by the citizens for very many years. People developed a new system of symbols, including bears, eagles, and walruses, with the help of which various aspects of Native American life were introduced. This form of traditional art was made using such materials as fabric, rocks, clay, feathers, and cloth. Basket making was a key activity that bore two purposes, the creation of beautiful art and the promotion of tools that could be used in daily life activities. Cornhusks and reeds were woven intricately into baskets and dyed to create striking, artistic tribal designs, while the baskets themselves were used to carry vegetables and fruits. Native Americans also practiced colorful blanket weaving of various designs and patterns, mainly done by women.
Native Americans also used art as a means of paying homage to animals that were considered friendly. People made bears and eagles out of rock and curved walruses out of the teeth of dead whales. They created statues and pendants that served as representations of their respect for various animals and their potential impact on human lives. There was also an artistic tendency to design weapons and instruments, with the Totem pole as one of the most significant subjects. Tall sculptures were made from wood to introduce various generations of families, where each face incorporated into a totem pole represented a family, animals, and birds.
Native Americans mainly had two distinct origins, noble and savages. However, in literature, Native Americans are introduced only as savages that were disliked by the emerging new American society. As civilization spread across the United States, savagery became increasingly viewed as inferiors. In addition, civilization was considered as a natural replacement for savagery, and, therefore, savages and their culture were bound to become obliterated (Rowe and Tuck 4). Native Americans were forced to adopt civilization and live in modern America in order to avoid extinction. They thus abandoned their traditional culture, savage virtues and adopted the new world ethos. The Native American culture was thus reduced to only being expressed and showcased in museums across the United States as examples of how indigenous people had to adopt modern cultures, replace their values, and accept new ways of living.
Chinese Traditional Art and Culture
Chinese art varies, including paintings, jade carvings, calligraphy, bronzes, architecture, sculptures, and pottery. Multiple works were created in China over the centuries to define the essence of Chinese culture and its representation in the global arena. The way of how artists saw Ancient China determines the level of knowledge people could obtain in modern schools today. One of the most significant features of Chinese art is the degree to which it reflects the class structure that has been in existence at various epochs (Su 530). From its onset to the period of the warring states, art was chiefly made by unknown craftsmen intended for the feudal and royal courts. During the Zhou and Shang periods, the creation of ritual bronze artifacts was strictly regulated by the authority of the courts that had the power to allow or deny regional workshop production. This regulation by the courts resulted in design characteristics being shared among craftsmen drawn from specialties dealing with various media such as textile, bronzes, and lacquerwares, thus the designs were relatively uniform.
During the Han dynasty and the Warring States, the merchant and landowning class emerged. This class was mainly composed of educated individuals that enjoyed painting, poetry, music, and calligraphy leading to the emergence of Chinese literary art. Therefore, during that period, there were two distinct forms of art, visual arts of the craftsmen and artists and literary forms of the scholarly class. These activities were viewed highly and regarded as media of individual expression. Calligraphy and paintings became the valued means of exchange in the large social economy. Individuals that had skills in painting and calligraphy established themselves socially among the scholars.
There are many reasons for the disappearance of Chinese traditional culture. Rapid urbanization was defined as one of the most influential processes that challenged culture (Su 526). Village life was a foundation of Chinese traditional culture because many artistic and craftsmanship organizations were based there. Villages were known for their specific arts’ achievements like bronze making, textiles, and lacquerwares. The Chinese government laid emphasis on urbanization to drive China’s global agenda, so more cities offered formal employment to be built at the expense of villages. As a result, most young people were seeking formal employment as opposed to developing their skills in arts or other village specialties. Local authorities tend to sell village land to developers, which led to the loss of rural land and the places where village culture was appreciated. The disappearance of Chinese traditional culture began with the intention of a person to leave villages and live in cities.
Japanese Traditional Art and Culture
Traditional forms of Japanese art represent uncomplicated, inspirational, and fascinating beauty that is appreciated both in Japan and internationally. Japanese culture is one of the most resilient cultures in the world and is highly resistant to attenuation as a result of the adoption of modern cultures. Among the existing forms of art, calligraphy plays an important role in Japanese culture. Kana and Kanji, the Japanese characters, were adopted from China in the Heian period. However, compared to Chinese, Japanese calligraphy has advanced to include various unique styles that bear unique beauty.
The traditional art of ikebana is a famous Japanese practice of flower arrangement that emphasized various parts of a plant being arranged as opposed to the colorful blooms alone. This form of art includes properly chosen textures, as well as a balance of branches and colors for artists to express themselves and their cultural beliefs. Other cultural traditions depicted in Japanese art include the woodblock prints that mainly depict beautiful women and geisha. This specific art form represents a fleeting world full of pleasure. In addition, Japan is known for its remarkable tea ceremonies. They are rooted in the hospitality displayed by noblemen during the Heian period as they served tea to senior guests. This led to increased appreciation of tea and the development of unique etiquette and rules. Japanese traditional dances incorporate dramatic makeup, a number of emotions and costumes to reenact ancient Japanese legends.
As well as Native Americans and Chinese, the Japanese could not stop the progress and control its impact on the development of traditional cultures. Globalization is the major reason for the disappearance of Japanese traditional cultures (Nand et al.). After the Second World War, globalization coupled with efforts to disarm Japan resulted in westernization, technological advance, and raised economic activities. This systematic internalization led to the increased popularity of western cultures as a result of their economic popularity. Young people choose life in big cities and pop culture and forget about the importance of village life and cultural background. The impact of the western world is impressive, clashing with traditional Japanese culture and leading to its attenuation.
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Art is a key component of any society that determines how individuals express themselves and share cultural values across generations. It is a unique opportunity to ensure the preservation of social norms and achievements and give members their identity and a sense of belonging. Traditional cultural art is mainly rigid and revolves around the way of human life. Modern and contemporary art, in its turn, is more liberal and spans across genres and societies. It is hard for a modern person to resist such processes as globalization, urbanization, or migration, which creates a risk for replacing traditional cultures. Native American, Chinese, and Japanese cultures are the prototypes of traditional art that offer a unique identity developed apart from the rest of the world. However, with time, despite its role and impact on society, traditional culture loses its significance due to the growing pressure of civilization. Native Americans experiences increased adoption of new standards, Chinese traditional culture is challenged by urbanization, and Japanese traditional values are questioned by globalization and internalization. In spite of these threats to traditional culture, it is important to ensure the preservation of traditional art and culture.
Nand, Kristina, et al. “Examining Cultural Drifts in Artworks Through History and Development: Cultural Comparisons Between Japanese And Western Landscape Paintings and Drawings”. Frontiers in Psychology, vol. 5, 2014, Web.
Rowe, Aimee Carrillo, and Eve Tuck. “Settler Colonialism and Cultural Studies: Ongoing Settlement, Cultural Production, and Resistance”. Cultural Studies ↔ Critical Methodologies, vol. 17, no. 1, 2016, pp. 3-13.
Su, Yunqiao. “The Integration of New Media Art and Chinese Traditional Culture.” Design, User Experience, And Usability: Users, Contexts and Case Studies, edited by Aaron Marcus and Wentao Wang, Springer International Publishing, 2018, pp. 524-534.