Flatau, Juliette

Juliette Flatau

Juliette Flatau responds to the question: What is the relationship between knowledge and culture?

Object 1: Mr Beast, ‘$456,000 Squid Game In Real Life!’

‘$456,000 Squid Game in Real Life!’ is a Youtube video uploaded by Mr Beast, an 87 million subscriber Youtuber known for entertainment videos, giving away large sums of money through competition-style videos. In this video Mr Beast recreates ‘Squid Games’, a competition held in Korean-thriller TV-show; ‘Squid Game’, where 456 players, all in severe debt, enter a competition playing children’s games for ₩45.6 billion (37 million USD). If they lose a game, they are killed. Mr Beast eliminates losers instead of killing them, the tone being very light-hearted in comparison to the show. This video’s existence illustrates unique relationships between knowledge and culture.

This object enriches the exhibition as it illustrates a key relationship between subversive knowledge and mainstream culture; the former’s recuperation into the latter. Recuperation, the phenomenon of subversive political message being nulled for capital gains is evident in this video. Squid game is a scathing critique of Capitalism’s cruelty, but Mr Beast’s light-hearted video recuperates Squid Game’s imagery with no forethought of its political roots, to gain traction online and therefore money. His video’s earnings were projected to be $500,000. This reveals that subversive knowledge cannot exist in mainstream culture; it will be recuperated for potential capital gains.

An alternative enrichment of the exhibition lies in the video’s cultural context, and its’ exclusion of non-Eurocentric knowledge. Squid Game is notably a Korean production, with the competition corrupting Korean-childhood games. Squid Game’s first round is ‘무궁화 꽃 이 피었 습니다’, translating to ‘The Mugunghwa flower is blooming’. In his video, Mr Beast whitewashes this to ‘Red Light, Green Light’, and avoids using the song used in traditional games and in Squid Game, the TV show his YouTube video is playfully recreating. Despite the Korean name and song being more recognisable to Western audiences, the song’s TikTok audio having 800,000 videos filmed to it, Mr Beast actively excludes the song and therefore the show’s Korean culture. This affirms that non-Eurocentric knowledge is excluded when media enters ‘mainstream’ culture, even when arguably more recognisable.

 

Object 2: Mussolini’s Mother’s Day (Festa Della Mama) Card (1933)

This ‘Festa Della Mamma’ card depicts Madonna and Baby Jesus embracing, surrounded by a crowd of mothers, the back is a prayer for mothers across Italy. Produced during Mussolini’s reign of Italy, this card celebrates his government-introduced holiday, Mother’s Day. Mussolini is partially credited with modern Mother’s Day’s popularisation, still celebrated across Europe today. Mussolini’s motivation for celebrating was encouraging women to become mothers through subliminal, religious idolisation of parenthood, wanting to establish a vast Fascist empire. This piece enriches the exhibition, through its controversial religious and deceptive origins that do not influence Mother’s Day’s importance in modern culture.

This object is key to exhibition as it exposes a relationship of ignorance between certain types of knowledge and cultural events. Mother’s Day is still celebrated, partially due to the magnitude of Mussolini’s subliminal messaging, this card was one of thousands distributed across Italy. However, the role of the Fascist Italian regime in Mother’s Day’s popularisation remains obscure knowledge. Mother’s Day cards are still a prominent tradition of the celebration, despite their initial, grim purpose. This reveals a nature of knowledge and culture’s relationship; that corrupt origins do not withhold something from influencing culture. People selectively erase knowledge of tradition to maintain its’ place in culture.

Knowledge of a culture’s identity will be erased for saving the culture. The Christian context of this card is blatant; the back is a prayer; the design likens mothers to Madonna, Christianity’s immaculate mother. However, these religious connotations are not evident in modern, European Mother’s Day tradition, a celebration in countries of wide religious diversity. Turkey, a 99.8% Muslim population, and Czechia, a 63% Atheist population, celebrate a Mussolini-derivative Mother’s Day. This card and its graphic Christian imagery symbolises how key knowledge associated with cultures’ identity will be compromised for the sake of the culture’s continuance and globalisation.

 

Object 3:The Lost Leonardo’ Salvator Mundi by Leonardo Da Vinci

Salvator Mundi was miraculously recovered in 2018, under the guise of being ‘The Lost Leonardo’, one of the first Leonardo Davinci painting recovered in decades. It then became the most expensive painting ever sold at recorded auction, sold to the Louvre Abu Dhabi for 450 million USD. Two years later, after many suspicions were cast on the painting’s authenticity, ‘Salvator Mundi’ was officially declassified from Davinci original status, causing its value to plummet, and be considered almost worthless. This painting enriches the exhibition by exploring two key knowledge types that influence an object’s place in culture.

Upon declassifying ‘Salvator Mundi’, it became irrelevant in the cultural spectrum, going from the main attraction at The Louvre Abu Dhabi, to an “attributed works” in Museo-Nacional de Prado in Italy. Prior to declassification, the piece was highly revered. Renowned conservator Diane Dwyer Modestini claimed “the face was truly beautiful – smooth and harmonious but anatomically precise.” Knowledge of this piece being by Davinci prompted high praise, and an impact on visual culture. This differed greatly from the critical analysis after its’ exposure. Vincent Delieuvin, curator, claimed Salvator Mundi was “of surprisingly poor quality”. This piece enriches the exhibition, revealing how knowledge of a piece’s origins undermines its’ cultural value.

Salvator Mundi’s prominent cultural influence could be attributed to its suspected artist, Leonardo Davinci, but also its record-breaking auction price of 450 million USD, far overshooting its appraised value of 100 million. The Christie’s auction, where this painting was sold, allegedly to a Saudi Prince (another supposed affirmation of its’ immense value) was subject of countless articles, all exclaiming its’ ground-breaking cost. Salvator Mundi’s financials were prioritised over the painting’s artistic merit, the piece becoming iconic for being ‘the world’s most expensive painting sold at auction’, illustrating how knowledge of an object’s price can dictate its influence on culture, more so than its visual impact.

 

 

 

References

Delieuvin, Vincent. “The Demise of the National Gallery’s “made just like Rubens” Samson and Delilah with inexplicably cropped toes” 2019. Date Accessed 2 March 2022

http://artwatch.org.uk/tag/vincent-delieuvin/

Gamba, Biagio. “The “Fascist” mother’s day in a holy card of the Eb, Sepia series” Biagio Gamba, 8th May 2019. Date Accessed 28 February 2022

http://www.biagiogamba.it/la-festa-della-mamma-fascista-in-un-santino-della-eb-serie-seppia/

Jones, Jonathan. “The Da Vinci mystery: why is his $450m masterpiece really being kept under wraps?” The Guardian, 14 October 2018. Date Accessed 2 March 2022

https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2018/oct/14/leonardo-da-vinci-mystery-why-is-his-450m-masterpiece-really-being-kept-under-wraps-salvator-mundi

Jo Starr, Keley. “Once the same nation, the Czech Republic and Slovakia look very different religiously” Pew Research Centre, January 2nd 2019. Date Accesed 2 March 2022

https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/01/02/once-the-same-nation-the-czech-republic-and-slovakia-look-very-different-religiously/#:~:text=While%20Slovakia%20is%20majority%20Catholic,and%2029%25%2C%20respectively).

Mr Beast. “$456,000 Squid Game In Real Life!” YouTube, November 24th 2021. 25:41. Date Accessed 28 February 2022

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0e3GPea1Tyg&t=174s

U.S Department of State. “2018 Report on International Religious Freedom: Turkey. 2018. Date Accessed 2 March 2022

https://www.state.gov/reports/2018-report-on-international-religious-freedom/turkey/#:~:text=The%20U.S.%20government%20estimates%20the,of%20which%20is%20Hanafi%20Sunni.

Van Tyne, Dennis. “The “Salvator Mundi” on display at a press preview at Christie’s in New York in 2017.” SIPA USA. 6th December 2017. Date Accessed 2 March 2022

https://dynaimage.cdn.cnn.com/cnn/q_auto,w_727,c_fit/http%3A%2F%2Fcdn.cnn.com%2Fcnnnext%2Fdam%2Fassets%2F210524091958-07-salvator-mundi-scandal.jpg