8.07.2009

Some Inspiration - Returning to the Roots
In his seminal 1968 publication, Rabelais and his World Mikhail Bakhtin returns to the Medieval world where he finds a kind of paradise of human freedom that has been lost. He published this in the Soviet Union at the height of the cold war and he talks about the carnival and other medieval events where social structures were temporarily turned on their heads.

In the quote below he writes about the birth of the word “grotesque” which comes from a time when Roman ornaments were found in Titus’s baths, that were uncovered in the 15th century. Bakhtin writes:

“What is the character of these ornaments? They impressed the connoisseurs by the extremely fanciful, free and playful treatment of plant, animal and human forms. These forms seemed interwoven as if given birth to each other. The borderlines that divide the kingdoms of nature in the normal world were boldly infringed. Neither was there the usual static presentation of reality. There was no longer the movement of finished forms, vegetable or animal, in a finished and stable world; instead the inner movement of being itself was expressed in the passing of one form into the other, in the ever incompleted character of being. This ornamental interplay revealed an extreme lightness and freedom of artistic fantasy, a gay, almost laughing, libertinage.”

What I find so inspiring in this quote (especially the phrase in italics) is that Bakhtin in the medieval finds a reformulation of time and temporality along with a total acceptance of change. Through this reformulation of time, he finds a new form of human freedom. It goes hand in hand with the ideas of Vision Forum this year. We have to reformulate time in order to become free, be it through dreams, science or a physical journey across cultural borders.

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