08 October 2016

Repeating. Did I say that already?


It was common for actors in the 16th Century, in Shakespearean companies to play different roles each night. A band of actors would travel from one city and village to the next, and in each location to perform another of the Bard's great plays. I have a friend here in Sydney who runs an opera company. And opera fans have seen the same companies perform different shows each night for weeks, while the cast remains the same, but change roles each day.

In this painting by Caravaggio, the setting is clearly the ancient story of Narcissus, and this one features some similarities to other paintings by the artist.

It has been questioned by art scholars, whether the painting Narcissus was actually painted by Caravaggio. Elements in the painting’s style and iconographic creativity has led to the acceptance that it actually was one of Caravaggio’s creations. Caravaggio, a young and poor artist, was known to reuse models and costumes repeatedly, in order to save money. The facial features of Narcissus look very similar to the angel in the painting Rest on the Flight into Egypt.

The composition of the vest that Narcissus is wearing looks as if it is the same material as Mary’s dress in another of Caravaggio’s paintings, The Penitent Magdalene, as well. Caravaggio was also known to produce paintings with a suspenseful, magical and introspective atmosphere, during the middle of his career as an artist, which is very characteristic of this painting.

Repeating ourselves, and reusing characters, plots, themes, story lines, even clothing... hey, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Of course, we're writing about Shakespeare, operas, and great artists. Their works have stood the test of time. But what about others who continue to peddle tried-and-true formula antics like comedians whose shtick is canned? Think of Abbott and Costello; think Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin; think Adam Sandler or Woody Allen. Their marks are all over their works and they 'work' which is why they didn't adjust; they didn't need to. It's still working.

I watched the first two debates in the US presidential election. One with the senior candidates, and the other with their 2ics. One of the knocks I hear from each side is that 'the other guy uses canned answers.' There is a sense of indignity that preparation in debate leads to answers which apparently are not real. As if answers have to be off-the-cuff to be genuine. I don't really understand that.

I go to a certain florist shop to buy flowers because the lady Rita who runs the place does a great job. I know what I'm going to get. She knows what I want. It's a comfortable albeit patterned situation. I trust her BECAUSE she's reliable. And the product is repeatedly good.

Most people who buy bread at the bakery want good bread. They want bread that is reliable and safe and healthy and tasty. They don't want something new or different as if that's the only good stuff. They want repeatability in reliability.

I wonder if someone can help me understand why 'canned' answers in debate preparation is wrong, but good paintings, bakery products or flowers is right. I'm willing to learn. Thanks.

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