Youtube -1320 AD

800px-cathedral-chartres-2006_stained-glass-window_detail_01.jpg

“see what else is on…”

For most of our existence, we have lived in a world without images.

We are today so inundated by them, from TV to movies to magazines to billboards that we forget that all this happened only yesterday.

In the medieval world people might spend a lifetime without seeing a visual image. For the average person, books were a rarity they never encountered. Newspapers or course, advertising, paper in general were pretty much non existant. And, of course, the population was illiterate. Everyone was illiterate – including the king.

So when the Church wanted to communicate important information, and to educate people, they did it through art. Pictures.

These ‘pictures’, paintings, frescos, stained glass windows, told, over and over again, the stories of Jesus and Mary – the same stories that the priests were telling in Church sermons. It was the ‘Sopranos’ of its day. Everyone knew what ‘had happened’. It was the universal ‘shared experience’.

For the lucky few, there might be a pilgrimage to a religious shrine, perhaps once in a lifetime. As transportation was pretty much on par with information, walking was the best way to get to a religious shrine – and that took time. Great medieval literature is often based around these pilgrimages. It took weeks, sometimes months to make the trip.

But at the end of the road was a place of great religious importance – like The Cathedral of Chartres, in France.

And almost all of these shrines were dominated by a gigantic if not overwhelming (and extremely expensive) work of art.

Like the stained glass windows at Chartres (see above).

Even today, they are impressive pieces of work.

But imagine what they looked like to 13th Century pilgrims. Starved of any kind of visual stimulation in their lives, walking for weeks or months to arrive there, the windows must have been mind blowing.

One can imagine the peasants and serfs (and nobles for that matter) standing before them, jaws agape, staring in wonder.

They were the Youtube of their day. An overwhelming feast of visual information and colors.

There was nothing else like it.

Today we are pretty sanguine about Chartres. Been there.. seen that.. let’s move on. “The Colosseum? 20 minutes and I’m bored” says one person I know.

We are jaded.

And attention spans grow shorter.

As video moves to the web, everyone agrees nothings should be longer than 90 seconds. Perhaps less.

This is tough because you can’t even begin to explain complicated matters in 90 seconds….

And we are just at the beginning.

What will happen in a decade?

Do we reach a point where you can no longer communicate information at all?

Give us 8 seconds, we’ll give you the world?

3 responses to “Youtube -1320 AD

  1. not everyone agrees with the 90 second rule

    Gary Vaynerchuck produces daily 20 minute videos. He gets 25,000 viewers a day, that’s quite respectable I think.

    http://www.shootingbynumbers.com/?p=77

  2. The church world did have something akin to VJ’s, but the knowledge of this has been lost to the western world. There were, in fact, small one-man operations providing local content through the local distribution medium (the village church).

    You can still see their work at Eastern Orthodox churches. The entire western world (the one we know) switched to a very small number of more elaborate works (like the window above) in the 11th-12th centuries after having established a very strictly controlled hierarchy in the late 10th and early 11th centuries (part of why the rest of “The Church” disassociated itself from the Romans). However, the other 4 branches of the Church (Rome split off in 1054) retained their form and kept the VJ paradigm, so to speak.

    Towns and villages had local iconographers who could make (relatively) inexpensive icons (depictions of persons or events from the Bible or early church) on small pieces of wood using egg tempra paint which could be hung up in the local church. Everyone had these images (usually without writing, though in some, Jesus is depicted holding the Gospel) to see to give their illiterate minds something to work with.

    These were so much a part of the worship (the peasants and often priests couldn’t read), that they were a topic of hot debate in the 8th and 9th centuries. The word “iconoclast” comes from that debate. The iconoclasts wanted to destroy all the images in the Churches because it seemed akin to worshiping idols. That fight was finally settled in the 9th century, and the Church kept her icons.

    The “iconographers” (note: not icon painters, but “icon writers”) were tasked to copy earlier icons. Here’s an icon of the apostle Luke writing the first icon http://orthodoxwiki.org/thumb.php?p=Luke_first_icon.jpg&width=248.

    These “one man bands” used the advanced technology (rare pigments) to produce short visuals and then distributed them to the viewers at a very low cost. You didn’t spend years learning at a monastery. Usually, you would go work with an established iconographer for a short time, make up a little book of tracings, and head home to start production.

    It is true that they were required to follow a format and they weren’t usually creating “new” content (unless a new saint was cannonized, which usually happened in the local community, and was only later “cannonized” by the church), but they were providing “visual content” much more cheaply and quickly than the “establishment” was able to do (The “News Desk” of the eastern churches, like KRON, actually depended on them for content).

    Those screens you see sometimes in Episcopal or Catholic churches between the people and the altar area are actually remnants of the “icon stand,” which was a set of panels or screens to hold icons. The Eastern Christian churches (Greek, Antiochian, Russian, etc.) still have the screens up there with icons hung on them.

    See? The VJ paradigm is simply the work of humanity wishing to use the best technology at the time to serve the greatest number of people, without all the overhead.

    Though the church did have control over the Bibles as has been stated before here. The enormous cost to make them was far beyond the resources of any village – copies of the Gospel were usually kept in ornately decorated metal covers and might make travels along with the bishop to the local churches from time to time. The local churches usually could not have their own, and the priests simply had to memorize the Gospels.

    There were local content providers making relatively inexpensive “video” content everywhere. All you needed were pigments (HD Camera) and a slab of wood (laptop), and a small amount of training as to what works and what doesn’t, and you were in business.

    Jim

  3. Sorry, I guess that is a dynamic link, because it doesn’t work. I uploaded it here: http://marysturges.com/icon.jpeg

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