Davari’s Speech in the Opening Ceremony

Dr-DavariBorn in Ardakan near Isfahan in 1933, Dr. Reza Davari Ardakani finished his primary and secondary education in his place of birth. After graduating from high school he was hired as a teacher by the Ministry of Education in 1951. He entered the University of Tehran’s Faculty of Literature as an undergraduate in 1954 and earned his doctorate in philosophy from the same department in 1967. Since his graduation, Dr. Davari has been a professor of philosophy at his alma mater,where he mainly teaches courses on the history of modern philosophy. After the Iranian Revolution in 1979, while maintaining his academic post, Dr. Davari served in such capacities as a researcher in the Iranian Academy of Philosophy, member of the Iranian Academy of Sciences, as well as a member of a number of scientific and academic delegations representing Iran in international conventions. From 1979 to 1981, he was the dean at the Faculty of Literature and Humanities, University of Tehran, and the head of Iranian National Commission for UNESCO from 1979 to 1982. In 1998, Dr. Davari was appointed the President of the Iranian Academy of Sciences, a position he still holds. He’s  been a member of the Supreme Council of Cultural Revolution since 1984.
Dr. Davari is the author of more than twenty books and over one hundred articles and reviews. “Abu-Nasr Farabi,the Philosopher of Culture”, “Philosophy, Politics and Violence”, “Essays on Modern Science”, “Essays on Modern West”, ” A Critical Approach to Carl Popper’s Philosophy” and “Poets in a Destitute Time” are among the books Dr. Davari has written and published over the past forty years.

It is my honor to speak a few words on Arts here. I am more inclined towards philosophy and I have no artistic talent; however, because of my job I have to know about art.
You know that the discussion about art is really talking about philosophy.  There has not been such a discussion in our (Persian) culture. Plato was the one who initiated the conversation about what is art and why we need it. Art has existed from the beginning of the human existence. Art’s zenith is dependent on time. Technology develops and progresses with time but one cannot say that today’s art is better than previous periods. As long as man has existed and language was invented, art has lived.  What I would like to say today is that our lives are dependent on the arts or, in other words, one of the basics of the human lives is the need for the arts.
People usually ask what art is and what it is good for. There is no simple answer to this question.  There is no use for art. Things that can be utilized are the commonplace items of our lives.  There are things that cannot be used or consumed. They are not tools. So, what are they? There are elements that are the building blocks of numerous other things but they have no utility. When some object has some utility that means that one can use it in some way or another, or it can be consumed. But art cannot be consumed; it will not surrender to the consumer unless it is pseudo-art, art of a lower nature. What we consume is pseudo-art. We are not able to consume or utilize art.
Let’s return to the beginning of the talk. I said that philosophy discusses art and its origin goes to the works and ideas of the Greeks. There are some nuances in the works of Farabi, Ibn Sina (Avicenna), Khajeh Nasseer, Molla Sadra (Shirazi) and the others. Philosophers and poets have alluded and hinted about art but it is not a poet’s work to discuss or explain in detail any subject.  Poetry is explanation. Art is explanation. One sees, hears, justifies and confirms.  There is no reason to prove the validity of anything. I know that I need to explain my reasoning, but today I just intend to give you some hints.
What is it that an artist does that has to deal with truth? Titus Burckhardt who is well versed in religious art and Islamic art tells a story that he once told a muralist from Morocco to accept him as an apprentice. The artist asked him what he would paint on a certain wall. Titus answered him that he would paint flowers, bushes, deer, rabbits and so and so forth. The master said these are all found in nature, why paint them? Plato has been criticized for saying that art is an imitation of nature. Some have said that there is nothing profound in nature that is worth copying or imitating.
If art is an exact replica of nature just like a picture then it is not that important. But this is not art. The artist that has chosen photography as the medium does not take any one picture in a mechanical manner. The artist who is a photographer captures the moments, and hunts the impulses. Art is not an imitation of nature. Plato’s words have been gravely misunderstood when he said that art is an “imitation” of nature. We will do injustice to Plato if we interpret ‘mimesis’ to mean duplication. So what is the relationship between art and reality? What is an artist’s responsibility?  Does the artist wish to reveal something that is real? Art strives to make things and objects “happen” and become eternal.
I think if there was no art, and our lives were limited to consumerism, we could never question the importance of art. Animals have no poetry, so they don’t ask why art is needed in their lives. If we ask such question it is because we are not satisfied with things that are tangible as we see them. There is nothing wrong with the objects that are tangible. Art is of tangible objects and it belongs to this world. I will not talk about the relationship between art and reality. Let’s assume that the artist is connected to reality. But the artist establishes such reality and builds on that.  The artist always searches for home and reaches for comfort and I do not mean personal or physical comfort. The artist turns his own world upside down and thus builds a home for us and provides us with leisure and comfort.
What is certain to me is that thinkers and philosophers (and artists) are the guardians of our lives. Tranquility and comfort is relative in this life. Nowhere and at no time there has been absolute tranquility. The poet does not take us to heaven. If there was time we could talk about the differences and similarities between art and religion. Anyway, the artist bases the life on love and affection which is all necessary for tranquility and peace. Maybe this is the reason why people’s lives are settled without anyone noticing art’s importance.

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