Rauschenberg/Jobs—Art/Design—Musings

After returning to Portland from a wonderful four weeks in Captiva at the Rauschenberg Residency I keep being reminded of Robert Rauschenberg.

I received Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs for Christmas. I just finished reading it. Near the end there is this anecdote in which Jobs recalls a visit to a Turkish Bath in Istanbul:

I had a real revelation. We were all in robes, and they made some Turkish coffee for us. The professor explained how the coffee was made very different from everywhere else, and I realized, “So fucking what?” Which kids even in Turkey give a shit about Turkish coffee? All day I had looked at young people in Istanbul. They were all drinking what every other kid in the world drinks, and they were wearing clothes that looked like they were bought at the Gap, and they were all using cell phones. They were like kids everywhere else. When we’re making products, there is no such thing as a Turkish phone, or a music player that young people in Turkey would want that’s different from one young people elsewhere would want. We’re just one world now.

That reminded me of a quote from Robert Rauschenberg that I marked in my copy of Robert Rauschenberg: Travelling 70-76 (Museo de Arte Contemporanea de Serralves):

We’re going to end up with a generic world. Where everybody is going to be exactly the same…Even Africa is becoming like that…seeing everything leveled down to the same attitude is going to be most depressing. I look forward to the differences. I need them, I respect them. So, if everything levels out it will be boring. I don’t know what I’ll do for a living. 

They both perceived similar things, but Rauschenberg notes how, as an artist, he needs the richness of variety in the world while Jobs’s attitude seemed one of acceptance, a recognition that says to Jobs-the-designer that products need to be designed so that anyone, in any culture, can utilize them intuitively. Probably they are both right.

Perhaps it is a function of art to fight against the less attractive aspects of prevailing culture.

At another point in Isaacson’s book he quotes Bono:

The job of art is to chase ugliness away.

In being driven through Ft. Myers, Florida, I was reminded of the blandness of most of our corporate culture when I realized that a big box store mall I was passing through could be in Oregon instead of Florida if you just switched the palms for evergreens.

If you read my earlier posts you may recall that as I was taking breaks from studio work I was reading Anthony Everett’s biography of Hadrian (which I have just now returned to). Among other things, that  Roman emperor is credited with building the Pantheon in Rome.

Pantheon 2009

It is my favorite building in the world.

On visiting in 2009 I was disappointed to find that directly across the piazza in front of the Pantheon  (right behind me as I took the picture) is a McDonald’s.

Sacrilege.

 

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