Friday, 19 November 2010

A Leonardo sized dilemma for an old hippie

I don't know how to begin squaring the circle on this one. That's how big this dilemma is for the head of the mummymashed old hippie Grit.

Here we are, at the Leonardo exhibition, Hong Kong Science Museum. (Travelling to a venue near you, or just left.) This touring exhibition displays scaled models made by Teknoart of Florence. They've constructed these stunning models from the notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci.

You can read anywhere how amazingly those models are crafted and how enormous is that original imagination.

What I have, is a dilemma in navigating the discussion around these instruments for the greater learning of the little grits.

Like, these models are beautiful! You are right; they are designed to main and kill as many people as efficiently as possible. And Leonardo was a brilliant artist with an unparalleled use of the sfumato brush technique! Yes, the rotating cannon, scythes, armoured tank, castle wall siege kit, spikes, assault weaponry and catapult for superior range missiles can all take your head clean off.

But I am a backsliding weakling. I gloss over the problem, staring me in the face, of the beautiful and the deadly. I skirt round the fact that fantastic creations come from military experiment. I avoid the conclusion that imagination can flower with death at the roots. I do not say that we need human death on a battlefield to inspire human invention. I change the subject when we come close to the business of blood, because inventing military weaponry was Leonardo's day job, after all, and the means to acquire patronage in fifteenth century Italy. I even manage to chart my way round the gore-filled discussion about anatomy, the detailed description I could conjure up with Leonardo poking his fingers through the veins of the human body to further his knowledge of the wondrous human machine.

Nope, I avoid all death-related discussion and hide under comments about how interesting and powerful are gears and pulleys.

I wander off with murmurings about knowledge of forces before Newton, and I say 'Oo look! There's the prototype for a helicopter. Draw that'.

But first join your chums to make a movable bridge from old logs.

That is an excellent design, isn't it? Yes, it was used to enable troops to quickly build a bridge, cross a river, then dismantle the bridge. That way, they could surprise the enemy and slaughter the lot of them. Perhaps we should keep some old logs in the back of the car, then we could give it a go over the River Ribble in Yorkshire.

It was a very good exhibition. Go. You probably won't have my problems. I'm a European gal with an interest in art, taught to fall prostrate on the floor before the imagination of Leonardo, and I'm an old hippie taught that no good comes from war. I simply can't bring those states together, and tell it to the children.

But the robot is excellent.


sharon said...

You could try asking the gritlets to think of ways the machines can be adapted to fit in with your pacifist ideals.

PS. Must admit here that it didn't work with my younger bloodthirsty son in a similar situation, he just looked at me as though I was a raving lunatic and said 'Why would I want to do that?'. Maybe your girls are marginally less violent in their notions....

MadameSmokinGun said...

Maybe it's the functionality (have I just made that word up or suddenly become American?) that appeals. Brushing aside what the function actually was, I always find that practicality of things very beautiful. The Victorian industrial machinery leaves me spellbound despite knowing how many limbs would have been ripped off by such 'beauty'. Ah well - I'm sure there are some long words that will allow us to appreciate terrible things whilst keeping our hippie ideals...... real long words, not the made up ones that I fumble about with. I also thought this stuff was amazing! But, yeah like um war is like bad dude .......

Grit said...

they adapted these machines to their own schemas, sharon. they spent some time wondering how they could shoot unicorns into the sky and have them hover there with the aid of an air screw.

mme sg, i think you are right. it is the practicality of the design which is beautiful. if i think on that, and not their purpose, then life in my head is easier.