‘I’m a travelling man…’ pt. 1

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I am writing this from a hotel room in Abu Dhabi, UAE. The British Council invited me here to take part in an event at Manarat Al Saadiyat on Saadiyat Island on Wednesday called Artscape of World Cultures. I snapped the pic above on the way to the arrivals gate at the airport where I was met by staff from The Beach Rotana hotel. On arrival I was struck by the scale of the place and the architectural flare at work in the buildings…and the heat. It is not yet summer here but that still means high 30s/low 40s and 50% humidity.

Yesterday I was interviewed by Damian Watson of Abu Dhabi Classic FM in the morning and then came the 90 minute drive to Al Ain where I led a workshop with some very talented students at UAE University.

Showing Bruegel’s ‘Icarus’ to a class at UAE University, Al Ain. (Image courtesy of Doris Hambuch)

The workshop was on how poets can draw inspiration from visual arts and music and it was amazing to hear the different responses the students had to two pieces of music (‘Wanderer’s Creek’ by Art Bleek and ‘Beartown’ by Polar Bear) and to Breugel’s ‘Icarus’. In the brief Q & A that followed the session I was asked, among other things, whether my interpretation of an artwork changes over time. That question surprised me, prompting thoughts on how my mood at a particular time might affect the way I view a piece of music, or a poem, or a painting. I know there are certain books I have stopped myself from reading because I wasn’t disposed to appreciate them at the time. I wonder what this says about the artworks that I can appreciate in any mood and at any time. Is that the mark of greatness? Does such a thing exist? All this takes me back to a module I studied in The Philosophy of Art and Literature in my first year at The University of Sheffield. There was an essay by Hume in the course pack called ‘Of The Standard of Taste‘ which is well worth a read.

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