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Art in Antarctica started with the spoken word.
The early Antarcticans, living in their treetop villages (Antarcticans, with the exception of the massive underground city of Faz, never went through a cave-dwelling period), would while away the calm evenings stretched out on the limbs of their town, swapping true stories based on Antarctican history, incidents in the village, and events from the teller's own life. Truth shows us what we don't know, and this story-telling tradition, by illuminating the past, brought into greater contrast those soft, grey hollows in history forever in darkness, because never lit by stories. As Antarcticans, by their story-tellings, became more aware of the holes in history, their recitations evolved into the telling of fictions to fill those holes, all listeners aware the asides were fictions, to give a completeness to a story. Over the years, Antarcticans realized they could create fictions not only about events which had occurred, but those which hadn't, and this final, full freeing of art from truth led to the birth of literature.
Unlike the oral traditions of many peoples, none of the Antarctican tales that have survived are ascribed to a single authorship, and were instead apparently the contributed work of a number of spinners over the slow, starlit centuries. Scholars from outside just now beginning to study these early oral texts, as they were transcribed thousands of years after their first telling, believe the free-form nature of the tales, without mnemonic prompts such as meter or regularly recurring rhyme or alliteration, kept the texts fluid, allowing more easily for interpolation, so that one spinner's inspiration could, through the ripple of its retellers, remain fresh and contemporary.
Because the native language of Antarctica, bus, is an oral language only (there are no symbols for the sounds, because of the complexity of "expressing" in bus - please see Language for a discussion of bus), the written tradition of literature in Antarctica did not begin until the 17th century, and then in English, which Antarcticans gravitated towards as the language best suited for their needs (except that some philosophical treatises are written instead in German, because of the utility of that language's compound words, and subtle shadings of sense in certain words).
Literature that could be written down was immediately grasped as a great tool, in that it allowed a creator of a tale, for the first time, to forever fix his or her version of that tale, on paper. It was during this era that the concept of individual authorship first arose, which led to the great flourishing of Antarctican literature from the 17th century to the present day. The first texts published in Antarctica were recipes and erotic poems.
Antarctican literature in general has followed two trends: highly personal writings, in which the author and his or her subject continually submerge and arise within each other, and what is usually referred to as "two worlds" fiction.
The personal writings are somewhat similar in form to the essay, but an essay in which the text is so self-directed as to suggest something meant only to be written, rather than read, much like many diaries and some letters. However, it is through the intimacy the writer shares with the page that a commonality that can be shared with the reader arises. Such writings can be as short as a few paragraphs, but are more often several hundred pages long. Although a description of this form of writing might prompt a non-Antarctican to conclude such writings are slow-going, or impenetrable, they are, in fact fascinating, because the method allows a reader to enter into the mind of the author, to where reading becomes eavesdropping.
The second popular form of Antarctican literature is usually referred to as "two worlds" fiction, in that the world the writer creates for a book or story is juxtaposed upon what is thought of as the 'real world'. Two worlds fiction has as its basis the solving of a mystery, not in the sense of a crime, but in the sense of an anomaly.
Criticism, letters, the more traditional essay, and biographies are also popular forms of literature in Antarctica. The typical Antarctican reads approximately one hundred books per year.
There is no tradition in Antarctican literature of fiction meant to bring about social or political change, or to present life as it "actually" is. Antarctican literature is concerned with magic. Art in Antarctica is seen as an invocation.
The music native to Antarctica is a quietly rhythmic style called uakti, which is played using instruments unique to the continent. It is similar in some ways to Western jazz in that each piece has a starting point of notes on bars, but then soon takes flight through improvisations. Those who have heard it generally describe it as "evocative", "intricate", and "life-affirming". Although uakti is infused with beautiful melodies, a piece usually must be listened to many times before these melodies begin to emerge in the listener's perception (once emerged, they are never forgotten). There are thousands of uakti pieces that are played with some regularity on the continent.
Uakti is instrumental music. Singing is a relatively new concept to Antarcticans, going back no more than 500 years. Scholars at this point tend to believe the late development of singing is most likely because the native language, bus, is itself very similar to song, and in fact generally more complex and heartfelt than traditional song. Antarctican singers and their bands tend to perform in public more often than singers elsewhere, and usually in much smaller venues than, for example, in the West. No matter how famous or esteemed a singer may be, it is rare for him or her to appear before an audience of more than, at most, several thousand. Most performances are in front of audiences of only several hundred, or less. It is felt that something is lost-- an intimacy with the audience-- when the audience is too large. There are no "arena shows", where the audience is measured in the tens of thousands, in Antarctica.
Antarcticans enjoy much of the music created outside their shores. Classical music is popular, as is jazz, world music, and the early, more rhythmic examples of rock and roll. Antarcticans usually prefer melody to atonalism, but when a visitor plays an experimental piece, it is politely listened to.
Sculpture preceded painting in Antarctica by nearly a thousand years.
From its beginning, sculpture was meant to duplicate as exactly as possible its subject. A good example of this is the magnificent sculpture at Mimosa, consisting of thousands of individual life-size statues commemorating the terrible struggle there in 1403 B.C. (please see HISTORY for more details). Each statue is so intricately carved that one may count individual hairs on each statue's head, follow the flow of veins from the back of a hand up into the tendoned flexure of a forearm, and look into the mouth to see each configuration of each tooth.
Humans are the most popular subject for sculpture, and are almost always portrayed naked. Unlike many cultures, in Antarctica statues are usually carved as if caught in the midst of an action, whether that be love-making, starting to smile or brushing something off their leg, rather than posed in a straight up and down stance with a sword or a horse at their side. A large number of Antarctican sculptures depict two or more people. Most sculptures are of real people, although many artists also create sculptures of people who do not exist. These are also carved with a high degree of realism.
Sculptures of animals are also popular, although almost always engaged in a natural, mundane activity, such as grooming, first waking, or seemingly doing nothing, rather than posed with wings spread, or claw raised, or on their hind legs, snarling.
After animals, another popular form of sculpture, referred to as nin, apparently in reference to the Five Concepts (please see Beliefs), is the practice of exactly duplicating a real, inanimate object, such as a telephone, in stone, marble, or another suitable material.
A very specialized branch of Antarctican sculpture is the carving of a naked body, male or female, from a diamond. The figure is usually quite small, easily fitting in the palm of the hand. Because of the literally tens of thousands of precise geometric cuts made to bring a roundness to the form, the sculpture has so many reflecting surfaces it appears only as a bright ball of light. To see the transparent figure itself, its surface and pose, it's necessary to almost completely cup both hands around the tiny sculpture.
Painting is believed to have begun as an aid to the sculptor in determining how he or she wanted to carve a statue, in effect a two-dimensional working out of a three-dimensional idea. Over time, the practice arose of presenting these sketches to friends and admirers once the sculpture itself was completed. Older sculptors, realizing there were only so many more statues left in the fingers and heels of their hands, began painting ideas for sculptures they knew they would never have the time to complete. From these trends, the idea of painting as an art in itself, separate from sculpture, arose. Although artists who followed this pursuit realized they had lost a dimension, they felt compensated by having gained a painted context in which to place their subject(s).
Most paintings are of humans, real or imagined, nearly all of them depicted naked. Landscapes that do not exist are also a popular subject, but landscapes of places that actually do exist are not, no matter how high the waterfall, snowy the mountain top, or charming the cottage.
All sculpture and painting in Antarctica is representational, which is to say figurative. Abstract art (juxtaposing different colors on a canvas, or different geometric shapes on a metal support post, for the sake of the juxtaposition), does not exist in Antarctica, nor does there appear to be any interest in it among Antarcticans, even after the concept has been carefully explained to them, and examples shown. All subjects in sculpture, and most in painting, are depicted precisely life-sized, always excepting the seaside city of Suh, which is comprised entirely of giant statues in which the citizens live and work.
Antarcticans have been making movies for two thousand years now.
Movie theaters in Antarctica are set up somewhat differently than elsewhere in the world. You enter a large, dark, carpeted space, and roll one of the comfortable chairs found inside to wherever you want (there are no rows or aisles). Because Antarcticans are so polite, there is never an issue of someone sitting too close to someone else, or blocking someone's view. Most people smoke during films, and have liquid refreshment, alcoholic or otherwise, but it is rare to see anyone eat during a film.
There is no studio system at all in Antarctica. Generally, a film gets made because an idea occurs to someone, who then develops the idea on his or her own and, once it is ready, talks to friends, lovers and family, trying to interest them in the idea and persuade them to help with the film, either with their talents or their financial support, or both. There are a small number of Antarcticans (perhaps 100) who appear in movies on a regular basis, and who are the closest equivalent to Hollywood stars. Most actors do only a small number of films over the course of lives filled with other interests, and are what we might consider "amateurs" in that acting is not their career, although the caliber of their acting is often quite high (this same situation exists in theater). A surprisingly high percentage of Antarcticans appear in at least one or two movies over the course of their lifetime.
The most popular type of film in Antarctica is the documentary, for which Antarcticans have a particular genius. These may be highly personal accounts or more detached overviews, depending upon the filmmaker, but they are always compelling. Because Antarcticans have been making movies for so many centuries, it is particularly interesting to see some of their earliest documentaries, from the first century, not only for the sake of the film itself, but to be able to look out through the movie screen at the way our world actually was back then, to see a face or a sky from two thousand years ago.
Antarctican archives include footage, as yet unscreened outside the continent, featuring extensive, in-depth interviews with Jesus Christ, Pontius Pilate, Julius Caesar, Attila the Hun, Casanova, William Shakespeare, Galileo, Leonardo DaVinci, the Marquis de Sade, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and many other notable personages. Antarctican film archives also hold the only filmed record, twelve hours long, of the crucifixion of Christ, as well as footage of Columbus' discovery of the New World, Napoleon's defeat at Waterloo, the Great London Fire of 1666, and a large number of other pivotal historical events.
Entertainment movies are also very popular. As is the case with their literature, most Antarctican movies have as their basis the solving of a mystery, "mystery" referring here not to a crime, but rather an anomaly. When treated seriously, the movie is a drama; otherwise, it is a comedy. Because there is virtually no crime in Antarctica, there are no crime movies, or police stories. There are also no war movies, or westerns. Science fiction is popular, as are horror movies, which tend to be tenser and more dread-inspiring than those found elsewhere.
In movies and on television it is not unusual to see males and females completely naked, if they would likely be naked in the depicted situation in real life (making love, building a late night sandwich, repairing a faulty showerhead).
3-D movies have been attempted a number of times over the centuries but have never really caught on, too many Antarcticans complaining of headaches.
Radio has been broadcast across the continent of Antarctica since 800 A.D.; television, since 1340 A.D. Both are staffed and funded by volunteers interested in broadcasting. Neither medium has commercials.
Except for the lack of commercials, Antarctican radio, at least in its programming structure, is similar to radio elsewhere, a mix of talk shows, music and news.
The most popular shows on television are documentaries, most of which have been made specifically for television, followed by comedies and drama. There are no continuing drama series, although there are continuing comedy series. Generally, stations that broadcast new shows broadcast only new shows; if a prior show was thought noteworthy, it will turn up occasionally on one of the stations devoted to repeats. A small number of stations broadcast news, but what they show tends to be news of new scientific discoveries, or new art shows, or new novels or movies being released, rather than stories about disasters.