Art Pact 177 - Arts and Tidiness


The confusion, of course, comes in their attitude towards human art - and, strangely, human tidiness. If there is one impulse the Vanaraet share with us, it is an appreciation of correct storage. "A place for everything and everything in its place" might well be a proverb that has a parallel in their unintelligible language. But it is not always possible to precisely correspond human thinking on the matter with the Vanaraet perception. The science of reading their emotional state is now well established - the urgency with which this science was required during the early days of contact led to rapid development and a thorough codifying of the procedure, to the point now where the youngest of human schoolchildren can determine when a Vanaraet is happy, sad, or in that violent and mercurial half-emotion that is something like our anger and something like our fear. So it is therefore no great problem to discover, given an arrangement of objects in a laboratory or apartment, for instance, whether a particular Vanaraet enjoys or is repulsed.

It is worth noting the failed experiments which have tried to pin down alien tastes on this matter. There was a great deal of excitement among the less rigorous sections of society at the discovery that offices and living spaces arranged according to feng shui principles were pleasing to Vanaraet, but it was quickly shown that the experimental protocols used were shockingly lax. The sample population was in fact a single individual (although this is hardly an unknown situation even in far more rigorous experiments, since with less than twenty Vanaraet on the surface of Earth at the moment they are hard to come by, and even harder to manoeuvre into situations in which they can be surreptitiously experimented on), and worse than that, outlier reactions were recorded on camera but removed from the end data. The Vanaraet involved in the experiments, then, a) need not have been representative of its race, and b) was not even consistent in its own appraisal of the buildings to which it was introduced. It was not responding happily to a feng shui arrangement of the furniture, but to some other feature of the way in which objects were placed into the rooms - a feature which has so far eluded further analysis. We mention this story partly to show the capricious nature of the Vanaraets' tastes, but also because the story, tedious and disproven as it is, keeps popping up in the less reputable areas of both the mainstream press (no doubt repeated every time some vacuous columnist or other discovers a mention of it in some out-dated press release), and in the far corners of the scientific community (although we hesitate to use the word scientific to describe what is no more than simple rumour-mongery if looked at with a cynical eye).

An example from the most modern tour will also show how it we would be premature in assigning well-understood motives to the Vanaraet's position regarding human art and tidiness. It was well-observed, both by scientists looking for this behaviour and by lay-persons commenting on their information feeds, blogs, etc., that Vanaraets 7 and 12 (colloquially known as Tin-Tin and Captain Mannering), the tourists involved in the trip around Nice, showed emotions consistent between themselves but inexplicable in terms of simple orderliness. Generally speaking they did not like to see apartments of the "bachelor" style, with things strewn around the floor, but they showed happiness in a few cases with particular arrangements of objects. In plate seventeen we see a old games console jutting out at an angle from shelving unit at the foot of a screen wall. As you can see, the arrangement of the console and game keys scattered around it is nothing unusual from a human point of view. But both Tin-Tin and Captain Mannering spent upwards of quarter of an hour examining the console from several angles, displaying happiness markers as interpreted by all humans present. They also generated lengthy sequences of clicks between themselves (and some, interestingly, seemingly not directed at the other Vanaraet, leading to the impression that they were talking to themselves at points rather than having a conversation).

These exceptions seemed to be something in the nature of micro-art appreciation. Imagine a human walking through a portrait gallery and finding the arrangement and layout of the floorplan both confusing and unpleasant. And yet a singular portrait calls to her, drawing her in so that she spends some time in rapt examination of the canvas. We can theorise that the Vanaraet found the placement (not, note, the object itself) of the console in some way apt or suitable to their senses. We know that they can see in the same wavelengths as us (and perhaps slightly beyond in the infrared, although not notably so), and we know that they can hear at least some of the sounds that we can. But they do not appreciate either visual art nor music, and it is not simply a different taste but a case of complete incomprehension - they do not appear to respond to our traditional arts in any way, nor show any indication that there is anything to be responded to. A human placing himself in front of a Vanaraet can make it understand, by gesture, that it should proceed no further or turn left or right. But a video of the same person, projected in front of the alien, elicits no response at all.

With this in mind, it is in some ways a source of pride that we have any theory about their artistic temperament at all. That we do not understand it full should come as no surprise at all, and certainly no failing to be worried over. We theorise that Vanaraet art is a matter of correct object placement, and that things in a place, in a certain orientation, somehow trigger in them an emotional response similar to the one a human has upon hearing "her" song. Put simply, a human tidying his house is, in their eyes, creating art. But we lack the appreciation to understand whether we are creating good or bad art, and why. We are, to them, similar to monkeys playing with paint - we might produce a Jackson Pollock style masterpiece by accident, but we would never know it.

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