I’d like to discuss my favorite little statuette. I got it about a year ago, when I got a new job. (That job turned out to be horrible, but at least it taught my good skills to get my current awesome job, so I guess if I want to view my life like an RPG it was the grindfest I needed to beat a boss.) It’s based off the piece Affe mit Schädel, by Hugo Rheinhold. I came across it while searching for artwork that involved Darwin and apes, and it popped up. I feel like my workspaces are too impersonal, so I wanted to get a little something to make it more me.
I rather like the definition of art that says it’s anything that produces an emotional response. It gets away from the artist’s intentions, and moves the focus to the viewer, which I feel is more useful, not to mention practical. On an aesthetic level, I like apes. orangutans are my favorites, but I like chimpanzees, as well. I also love artwork that combines apes with evolution or with Charles Darwin. I suppose it’s just a quirk of mine. There was one small figurine I saw one, of Darwin, and when you removed his head and peered inside, the face of an ape peered back! It was cute.
Anyways, back to my statue. Wikipedia has its own interpretation of the statue, which I’ll share here:
The excised Biblical quote possibly suggests good and evil cannot be known, or told apart. With the ape’s study, the library of books and the caliper instruments, the suggestion is the statue is warning against the application of rationalism in the absence of morality. Furthermore, when a human is depicted holding a skull, it is usually a comment on mortality and the inevitability of death; famously, Hamlet bereaves Yorick in one instance, but is soon repulsed by this macabre souvenir as it brings him face-to-face with all life’s grim destiny. But, for Hugo Rheinhold’s ape, it is something quite different. The ape is engaged in assessment and measurement (confirmed by the calipers). That we should even consider this level of intelligence in another species is a bold examination of ourselves through eyes that bear witness to the disproportionate leverage historically awarded humankind. Hugo Rheinhold’s original inscription “eritis sicut deus” (sometimes wrongly “eritus ….“), either suggests Darwinian understanding may lead to Frankensteinian abuse of life’s essence, or a more inclusive innocence that recognises a place for other advanced life‑forms on our intellectual podium, if only we can just accommodate those guests.
As for myself, I take something else away from it. What I like about it is an individual gazing upon the future that will render him obsolete, and wipe him off the face of the planet. Were I an artist myself, I would rather like to make a piece that had a human being in a similar position, gazing upon a robot.
Maybe I’m a bit dark, but I like thinking about humanity’s successors. What will we leave behind after we’re gone? What sort of immortality will we achieve, if any? Will we become personally immortal, living forever? Will only our genetics survive, leaving behind our evolutionary descendents, who have changed so much from us that we wouldn’t even recognize them? Will our memes live on, in artificial life-forms? Or will we vanish like the Avar, leaving neither descendent nor heir? It’s quite fascinating to think about; don’t you think so?