Da Vinci Recoded

While reading Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, it occurred to me that its popularity delivers a new and avid audience to the work of Leonardo da Vinci. I thought that had to be a good thing. Now, months later, I haven’t changed my mind.The book has been quite well transformed into a Ron Howard film. The fact that there are some textual differences between the novel and the film is not a crucial issue. They both convey a similar blending of fictional narrative, historical detail, religious controversy, and art appreciation.By inciting controversy among religionists, historians, and aestheticians, Brown has accomplished something of real value. The Da Vinci Code has opened possibilities for critical thinking, self education, and philosophical skepticism. The very manner in which the text presents a complex weave of so-called historical fact, revisionist interpretation, and pure fiction opens both the text and its sources to continual reinterpretation. This is what bothers many religious, historical, and aesthetic scholars. Much historically-based scholarship purports to reveal “objective” facts about what exactly occurred in the past. The Da Vinci Code explodes the notion of what is fact and what is fiction. This ambiguity is its true value and why the book and the film are significant cultural milestones.The open-to-individual-interpretation aspect of Brown’s book does seem to be diluted by his one-to-one symbolic reading of da Vinci’s paintings The Last Supper and La Giaconda. But the fact that his interpretations are used as evidence for some very debatable points in his ongoing tale opens the door to skepticism rather than some sort of aesthetic dogma.Because symbols are context-sensitive and open to interpretation (these points are very well made in the film), we have no necessary reason for accepting a simplistic reading of Leonardo’s work.It is a rare thing these days for skeptical and philosophical discussions of history, religion, and aesthetics to occur at all in public dialog. And as critical thinking is fast becoming a lost art, it can only be positive for it to be happening more than it was before the publication and screening of The Da Vinci Code.*Note: This discussion emphasizes the same open reading of symbols I encourage regarding comprehending the work of Keith Haring.*Images: Leonardo da Vinci, La Gioconda [Mona Lisa], 1503-05, Musée du Louvre, Paris.Marcel Duchamp, L.H.O.O.Q1919, Private Collection

Comments Off on Da Vinci Recoded

Filed under ARTology Now

Comments are closed.