Cultural Studies

  1. Write & explain about any one examples of art, symbols, the concept beauty, aesthetics, culture, customs, traditions, rituals which you like (or feel comfortable with), understand and think that it contributes positively to society. Write & explain about one examples of art, symbols, beauty, aesthetics, culture, customs, traditions, rituals which you DO NOT like (or feel comfortable with), understand and think that it contributes negatively to society. How in your opinion do you think it would have started initially? How & why do you think it would have changed to its present form?

(Approx. 350-500 words)

  • One of the set of symbols of today society that have come from the past which I like are the Eight Lucky Signs. The eight lucky signs are also knows as the Ashtamangala in sanskrit(eight auspicious) and tasheetagyay in tibetan (auspicious symbols eight). These signs are said to be symbols of good fortune that were offered to Buddha after he attained enlightenment. According to the Chinese and the Tibetans the signs represent different vital organs of buddha but both believe in different organs that the signs represent are different.

The eight symbols are:

  1. Right-Coiled White Conch (Chinese: gallbladder, Tibetan: speech): In todays society the conch has been regarded as an emblem of power, authority and sovereignty. The sound from the conch has the power to banish evil spirits, avert natural disasters, scare away poisonous creatures and bring good luck. Tibetans favour the right-turning conch shell, believing it to be especially sacred and only use it for religious ceremonies and rituals. They believe it echoes the celestial motion of the sun, the moon, the planets, the stars across the heavens and it also represents the spiral on Buddhas head. The sound is suppose to awaken the sole of the people who have passed away and persuade them to accomplish works for the benefit and happiness of themselves and others.
  2. Precious Parasol (Chinese: spleen, Tibetan: head): Also known as the white umbrella is a symbol of protection from black magic, great honours and recognition. It is believed to save us from life obstacles such as sicknesses, contagious diseases, spirit possessions and from the next life’s obstacles like sufferings of the three evil-gone-ones. It saves us from the heat of both temporary and long-term suffering sand gives us joy of a cooling shadow of peace and happiness.
  3. Victory Banner(Chinese: lung, Tibetan: body): The banner represents the activities of one’s own three doors and those of others not be stepped upon by obstacles or disharmonious conditions but to be victorious and for the precious teachings of the Buddha to be victorious in the war over the black side, the types of maras.
  4. Golden Fishes (Chinese: kidneys, Tibetan: eyes): The golden fishes are believed bring life and happiness. They represent fertility, abundance, fidelity and unity. Giving the golden fish as a wedding present is regarded to be auspicious as it signifies wishes for couple to find happiness, material prosperity and have many children.The fish used in the symbol is usually the carp, which is regarded as sacred because of its beauty, its size and its long lifespan. Even in ancient Egypt, a pair of fish is regarded as a sacred icon of life.
  5. Dharma Wheel(Chinese: heart, Tibetan: feet): The wheel symbolises creation, protection, transformation, spiritual change and a man’s circle of life, death and liberation, while the eight spokes of the wheel symbolizes the eight noble ways to end all suffering. It is thus used as a weapon to overcome obstacles through rapid spiritual transformations. The term turning of the wheel always means Buddha giving teachings because of which in monasteries prayer wheels are found which are to be turned while taking parikirma. Placing the magical golden wheel in one’s home is the best way of attaining lasting happiness.
  6. Endless Knot(Chinese: intestines, Tibetan: Omniscient mind): The mystical knot is believed to have  mysterious powers that bring happiness and attainments. The mystical knot overlaps which signifies no beginning and no end. Today the  symbol represents an assured continuity of love and corresponds with the lucky number eight. The Knot symbolises unity of method and wisdom, emptiness and dependent, and Omniscience and compassion.
  7. Lotus Flower (Chinese: liver, Tibetan: tongue): This is a universally loved symbol of purity. The beautiful lotus rising serenely from the mud signifies renunciation of worldly pleasures and suggests incredible beauty and purity hidden within the depths of the darkest and muddiest of situations. Planting a lotus in one’s home is said to enhance the harmonious chi that filters through our doorways. When the lotus blooms, it signifies the advent of a happy occasion. The lotus stalk and its root, when cut, show the empty compartments, signifying the wisdom of understanding emptiness.
  8. Treasure Vase (Chinese:Stomach, Tibetan: neck): It is believed to  brings all desired things like the fortune of a glorious life, enjoyments in the three realms of existence and peace. The vase is also said to bring contentment and harmony, peace and prosperity to households. The size of vases should not overwhelm the rooms and entrances of houses, but having large vases is said to be auspicious.

The lucky sings are found in homes and buildings attract good fortune. Tibetans also draw these symbols on the ground with coloured chalk or powder to welcome visiting high lamas or religious dignitaries to monasteries and temples. Practitioners of Tibetan Buddhism also incorporate these symbols into their prayer sessions. The hand mudras that signify the eight objects are also preformed by the monks as they chant their prayers.

  • The customs/myths followed in india related to a women menstrual cycle is something i am not comfortable with as I believe that it is hindering our society from growing. Some of the well know Myths in India are a girl who has her cycle going on cannot visit temples as they are impure during that period, cannot cook because the food cooked by them during this period is unhygienic and unclean, cannot touch pickle because it rots away if they do and can’t let their shadow fall on a basil plan as it will kill the plant.

The origin of these myths date back to the Vedic times as they were expected to be purified before they could return to her family and her life as they were believed to have carried Lord Indra’s guilt during those days.Menstruating  women were considered to be having special powers during menstruation and a more practical reasons was predatory animals can smell the blood and coming for the kill because of which women being kept in separate huts to protect the community. Women who came out of the seclusion hut were revered for their visions and wisdom gained during this time, and often guided the community as to where to go for hunting. It was also believed that women are constantly dissipating energy from their bodies and most religious chants are meant to balance out the energies in our body which would interfere with the natural losing of energy that must happen in menstruating women to prevent excessive energy build-up because  of which menstruating women are told to keep away from temples. The other reason women were kept in seclusion was because menstruating women become open to receiving and absorbing energy during this time making it east for them to absorb other’s energies, including negative energies.

These myths did not change with our society and have stayed with our society in that same way  impacting  girls’ and women’s emotionally , mentality and their lifestyle. Large numbers of girls in many less economically developed countries drop out of school when they begin menstruating. These Myths stop women from following their everyday routine and sometime force them to live in a secluded areas with poor hygiene facilities increasing susceptibility to infection.

Traditions are meant to be followed but it is also very important for these traditions to change with the society. People need to be educated and aware of the reasons as why a particular tradition is being followed and they should also been given the choice of actually following it or not.



2.  What is an aesthetic experience?  Do you think that our culture values the aesthetic experience?  Why or why not?  What parts of our being are involved in an aesthetic experience: emotional, sensory, intellectual, social, creative, kinaesthetic do you feel appeals to you the most when you visit(write on any one of the following):

.A holiday destination . A Mall . A festival(like Diwali, Holi, Christmas, Eid, Wedding)

(Approx. 300  words)

An aesthetic experience is something we find pleasurable and call a desirable experience, an experience which gives life worth and meaning. All experiences can be called an aesthetic experience but how good the experience is determined by how much concentration is originated in an organism by the stimulus. This is branch of philosophy that emerged during the 18th century in Europe and examined the nature of art and human experience towards it.

According to Cupchik and Winston (1996), aesthetic experience is a psychological process in which the attention is focused on the object while all other objects, events, and everyday concerns are suppressed. Beauty is very different from an aesthetic experience and for beauty to be a part of an aesthetic experience it must change from its extrinsic values to intrinsic ones and understood through intuition. According to which even ugly objects can be beautiful as its includes a mixture of feelings like pleasure, rage, grief, suffering and joy.

I think our culture does value aesthetic experiences because many of our festivals, artwork(modern and contemporary), traditions, rituals, symbols, books, mythology, etc. give us an aesthetic experience individually in different way and also in a group. I also believe that our culture promotes us to see the ascetic beauty in humans and differences. During many of out cultural events we lose our self and only concentrate in the event/stimulus which gives us a mixture of feelings.

When we visit a new destination for a holiday most of us have an aesthetic experience as we are involved emotionally, with our senses, intellectually, creatively and kinaesthetically. We begin to experience this from the moment the trip starts being planned to the moment the holiday is over and we cant believe its over. Mostly when we choose a holiday destination we generally choose a new destination or a destination that made us have an aesthetic experience before because of which it has our concentration and attention from the start which starts to increase as the dates approach. As mostly nothing ever goes as planned the people involved feel grief, rage and when the experience is better than expected of they finally achieve what they were suppose to by the end of the trip they feel joy, pleasure and a rush, this mixture of feelings and concentration and change makes a person have an aesthetic experience. The overload of sensory pleasure given to our eyes, taste buds, skin adds to the experience. The involvement of the muscles and our brain in the process of exploring the destination is also a beautiful aesthetic experience. To conclude i believe that travelling is truly an aesthetic experience.


——————————————————————————————————————3.  When you view an artwork for the first time, can you have an aesthetic experience without knowing anything about the work’s history, or about the culture or artist from which the artwork sprang?  Would learning more about the artwork increase your aesthetic experience? Art here can mean anything – a nicely done up room, a beautiful person, a nice experience (visit to a mall, holiday, cinema, exhibition, wedding etc.), music, or sound. Art here can include a bad or repulsive experience.

(Approx. 300-450 words)

I believe that when you see an art work for the first time you can have an aesthetic experience but I also believe that if we know something about the works history, culture and something about the artist our aesthetic experience will be enhanced. People also argue that sometimes you may not initially have an aesthetic experience but after you collect more information about the artwork the experience changes.

When you listen to a sound or music track you sometimes get this feeling of amazement in your stomach or you feel a chill passing through your body or all your sensory organs awaken. This can happen when you listen to the artwork for the first time or even if you have heard it a hundred times before. We have a variety of Music/songs available but each type of provides its own type of aesthetic experience. What type of audio artwork provides an aesthetical experience to who depended on many factors like personal choice or the persons background, even mood of the individual can play a role and sometime a single individual can have the experience with different kinds of artwork. I personally don’t have a particular choice and can feel it in both Brel’s Na Ma Quitte Pas a song in which i don’t understand the language or in the Beatle’s Let It Be a very well known and famous song.

One of my favourite songs is I See Fire by Ed Sheeran. I heard the song during watching the movie Hobbit The desolation of Smaug during the end credits and was totally take aback by the tune first and then the lyrics of the song. Initially I had no idea that the song was song by Ed Sheeran but later when i fount out I started enjoying the song even more because I am generally very fond of his songs. As the song was sung for a movie because of which the visuals of landscapes which accompanied the song only enhanced the experience. The feeling was amazing as well as confusing because of which the minute i got back home I heard the song again and tried to find out more about the song and when i found out that the book and the movie has an emotional attachment with the artist I felt Jealous of the artist as i wanted the same opportunity which only made me love the song more. Now i finally know that the experience the song gave me was an aesthetician experience.

My Example is about a song but this experience can be experienced by creating your own artwork or by seeing and experiencing others work. The experience does not have to be all fun or all sorrow it can be a turbulence of confusion, sorrow, pleasure or even lack of knowledge which as captured your attention and concentration and made you forget about your surrounding for a bit.


——————————————————————————————————————4.    Let’s us suppose that you have been teleported back in time in some medieval society (approx. year A.D 500 – 1500). Which years, place, society, and social status would you like to be teleported? What will you see when you go there? Explain the society, art, symbols, beauty, aesthetics, culture, customs, traditions, rituals of that time. Also explain about one important artist that you might meet and explain the work of this artist. Why did you choose this particular time and not any other? What will intrigue you the most compared to the life that you live presently (apart from technology)? What things do you think will make you feel comfortable and what things will make you feel uncomfortable & suffocated? What advantages will you have by being in those times? What will you miss from the present life & society the most if it so happens that you have to stay in the past society of your choice permanently? Write an essay on about this incredible journey of back in time.

(Approx. 750-1000 words)

If I was teleported back in time to a medieval society i would like to go back to the 10th century to the Scandinavian countries (Greenland, Iceland,Denmark, Norway and Sweden), as a Viking in the position of a boat builder and warrior. The Vikings were dehumanised by the Catholic ministry because they lived upon sacking multiple Christian facilities. This only Changed During Queen Victorias rule in Britain when they started beeping known as Nobel savages with horned helmets.

Unlike many myths about the Vikings, facts show that I would see men wearing simple metal framed helmets with a occasional face guard.I would see clean people who owned grooming utensils and beautiful farm lands kept by both men and women depending on the raiding season. The Vikings were also called Northmen or Norsemes.

Vikings lived in harsh wether conditions in northern Europe with scares of food and resources with lots of inter clan rivalry hence they started making boats to find better means of survival. All vikings had 3 types of amor on them a knife, a sword, and a battle axe and the carried out raids with terrifying speed which made them look barbaric but they were actually very skilled planners .They worshiped to warlike gods and believed in a pantheon of gods (including odin) because of which attacking unguarded monasteries for riches along the sea line was their first target. Over the years they eventually changed and turned into christians and settled on the main land. They also like and took pride in pet names like Eric Bloodaxe and Thorfinn Skullsplitter. Other than raiding the ancient seafarers also set up elaborate trading networks, distributing walrus ivory and polar bear skins from Greenland, silks and spices from Constantinople, and amber from the Baltic throughout Europe and Asia.

The Swedish Viking women dressed provocatively in rich, colorful robes and wore sparkly metal breastplates, with a pair of broaches placed at the top that showed off the ladies’ figures.

The most important Artists I would meet would be the boat builders and I would be a part of them. Their art in ship building allowed them them to travel great distances. I would get the opportunity to build their signature longboats which had sleek wooden vessels with shallow hulls and rows of oars along the side. These ships are fast, light, flexible and easy to manoeuvre.They sailed Thousand miles on the open sea and didn’t hug he shore lines like the other Medieval sailors at that time. Nor did they use the stars to help them navigate because the sun never set in their land. They used sophisticated wooden sundials to travel along the mirth-south latitude which utilised calcite crystals known as “sunstones” to identify the position of the sun even after sunset or on overcast days.The largest of these long ships held 300 warriors, who took turns rowing the ships 72 oars. The prow of each ship swept grandly upward, often ending with the carved head of a sea monster. A ship might weigh 20 tons when fully loaded. Yet, it could sail in a mere 3 feet of water.

The feature that intrigued me the most was the influence vikings has on our english language because of the mixing of Old Norse and Old English. This happened when interaction between the two groups increased in the form of trade and intermarriage also. “Give”, “window” and “dream” are common English words derived from the viking influence. The other fact i found very fascinating is that the vikings were the ones who introduced the combs to the other parts of the western world.

What i like about them is the way they treat the women in the society who were treated as equals with equal strength and i dislike about them is the fact that they used the knowledge they had to kill and plunder but again they had to do that to survive. The vikings were also very fast learns and they learnt the western lifestyle fast and settled down.

I chose this particular society and time because very less is known about them and lots of myths exist about them. Their skills and life style including their burial method fascinates me. The vikings were buried along with their boat and their belongings because they believed in a after life and in was believed that the belongings would help hem survive in the after life. One more reason i would like to go back would be because this culture does not exist anymore and the vikings do not exist anymore and the air that is still living have integrated into the society now. What i would miss from our society would be the leisure time I get to read books and learn.

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5.  Suppose you visited a museum and felt that you had a legitimate aesthetic experience when you looked at a particular painting.  Later, you learned that the painting was a copy of the original, placed there while the original was on loan.  Was your aesthetic experience any less because you were looking at a copy? Write a short note.

(Approx. 450-500 words)

If I saw a particular painting and had an aesthetic feeling after which I find out that the painting is was a copy would not reduce or change my feeling because i did have and aesthetic feeling and i cant deny that but the knowledge of knowing that the painting was only a copy would make me want the real painting even more. The only thing that would be going on my mind would be if a copy could me such a feeling then i cant imagine the experience the original painting can give me.

I think their is a big difference between the original and a copy even though the copy looks exactly like the original. This is because a copy can’t copy the vibes of the original paintings. The original painting gives us a little insight into the painters state of mind while he did the paintings and it also tell us about the life of the painter. The difficulties the artist went through to make the painting, these difficulties could be because of a number of things can all be felt by us. The difficulties, vibes, etc. are different when it comes to the copy.

Paintings can be Happy or sad they can be good or bad but all paintings have a heart and effort put into it and its very important to appreciate that. Paintings have no particular life if its been painted with good material and is preserved well sense is a beautiful way to pass on a story and according to me this story can be passed on by a copy. Many people would argue otherwise and would say that the copy only helps in spreading the story but as i said before a painting has more than what meets the eye.

Paintings are just like songs or books, they have a message and it does not comprise of one thing. Its many things that come together to form one compositions and everything that a painting comprises of has equal importance. For a copy to give the same aesthetic experience it need to have all the components as the original which is impossible for the original artist to do so itself because while making the copy the situations are different which does not make the copy less aesthetic it only makes it different.

For example take a famous painting like M F Hussain Mother Theresa series which are beautiful but also many copies have bee made. I have seen many copies but have never got a chance to see an original. Every time i see a copy it creates a feeling of beaut in my mind but more than anything it creates want in me to see the original. This is knowing in advance that its a copy, finding out later that a particular painting is a copy would make me feel a little bad because i would have missed another opportunity in seeing the original.


6.  Must all art contain a message or have a meaningful concept behind it?  Can art be an object that exists for its own sake?  Can art have practical and functional uses? If you like an object, is it art?  If you do not like it, could it still be considered art?  What part does popularity play in art? How in your opinion did industrialisation change the meaning of art? Should art only please the artists and the culturally elite, or should it touch a wider viewing audience?  Write a short essay to explain.

(Approx. 450-500 words)

I personally think that everything around us is art. It does not matter if the its a object that we use everyday like a tooth brush or if its something that not man made like the mountains. Art has different meanings to different people and the way humans look at things changes from person to person.

Most man made things has a concept behind it, this can vary from things to things e.g.: for a chair the concept will be create something to sit on whereas for a Poster is can be create something that has a meaning full message. Art can have a functional and practical use also now this can vary from telling a simple story to a place we live in. When we go to a museum and look at the cutlery or the furniture the kings used or when you go to a new country you consider the things they use as art the same way everything around us is art.

I do believe that art can be a object that exists for its own sake but at the same time humans are social beings and everything related or not related to them effects the consciously or unconsciously. Like Freud said  both nature and nurture plays a role on making a person who he is and since i also believe that everything around is art, even if a art exists for itself it effect us.

According to the dictionary art is – the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power. So if we take this meaning of art then objets we simply like is not art no are things thats exist for themselves. But again when artists create something for themselves would not be considered to be art but sometimes they are considered to be one of the best.

Things i like and don’t like has no effect on what is art and what is not. Things  I don’t like have an experience on me and just like I look at things I like twice I look at things I don’t like also twice. All type of art influence us some give us a good experience some give us a bad experience and some are even capable of making us cry.

Popularity make an art famous and adds value to the art and artist but non popular art can have an influence on us. Sometime popular art has not as much influence on us as compared to non popular art. Popularity does have influence in they way people see art because humans tend to follow the crowd and may like a particular art just because it is famous. Popularity is also influenced by culture as some thing might be considered popular  in one culture/ society  but not in another.

I think art does and should and will always influence a large ordinance since its all around us. Art can have a negative influence as well as a positive influence on us. Design is functional art but its still art. Art influences us if we want it to or not.


7. Please read the following excerpt and answer the question following it.

Films, advertisement & media often have unrealistic and stereotyped portrayal of women. Objectification of women, as sexual objects is very common in commercial Indian cinema. The heroine usually never portrayed as an individual with intellect, her ideas and thoughts pertaining to anything other than romance or family are not portrayed. Another terrible disrespect women suffer is that they are labeled as ‘item girls’, as the term ‘item’ is a disrespectful slang referring to a vulgar woman. This degradation of women is escalated by the infamous ‘Item Songs’ of Bollywood. Skimpily clad actresses dancing to the tune of vulgar and anti-feminist lyrics seems to be the norm in any popular Bollywood movie. Another common theme which runs throughout these movies show that successful women are prone to failure and fall prey to social evils like alcohol, drugs, when they earn success in life. It can be inferred that such movies portray women as weak characters who get ruined by the freedom that is accompanied by success. This stark contrast delivers a message to the society which essentially declares that women can never be equal to men, either socially, or politically. Further dialogues like ‘jaa choodiyan pehen ke beth jaa’ (go wear bangles and sit down, implying that a woman is incapable and useless) are frequently used in films and resonate the message that women are intellectually and socially inferior to men. 

Why & how do you think that over a period of time, this perception & portrayal of women has come about? What could be the reasons responsible for it? Why do you think that our society allows this type of negative & stereotypical behavior to continue? What are the other symbols of this phenomenon that you find around yourself? As a student of art & design, what in your opinion is the main reason of this behavior and what changes are required in the society to change it?

(Approx. 450-500 words)

Cinema in India was introduced by the Lumiere brothers and Bollywood started in Mumbai. When cinema was introduces in India women were looked down upon and if they were given roles to act in they would be related to being a house wife or it would be a non significant role. When women were given important roles the movie would not be watched or appreciated by the crowed making the movie infamous intern making the script writers and directors not make those movies. The people responsible of making movies as well as the actors realised that the only way they could be famous and earn good money (everything boils down to money) they had to make or be a part of item numbers. It become a cycle because cinema has a huge influence on the human mind and it influences the was people look at things hence influencing the people into appreciating movies objectifying women and since people now only like that type of movie the Bollywood industry makes makes movies in which women have low roles.

The society allows it and also promotes it in the name of entertainment and our society is a patriarchal society and thinks in that way. Humans like to see things they are familiar with and things that don’t challenge the views and thoughts they have. Change is something that is very difficult in such a large scale these thoughts and way of thinking is passed on from generation to generation. Most people believe that the cinema has no influence on them not knowing that it actually does and thats why our society allows this type f negative and stereotypical behaviour to continue.

We see this phenomena in jobs, posters, tv shows music, in India everything is divided into what is a mans work and what is considered to be a women’s work. We see this in household work or in industrial areas or in big organisations like airlines where most of the cabin crew are girls and are objectified for the body they have.

As a girl and as a design student I believe that the change will only come is peoples mind set changes and individual effort has to u put into changing the way we look at things. The change needs to be bought in the minds of young children both girls and boys and societal norms of what both the sexes are suppose to do and will do and what the their duties are being a girl or a boy needs to be changed.

  • Bibliography



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