I’m “atas and cultured”, and you’re clearly not.

What is the meaning of the term “cultured”?

“Refined taste, manners, and good education”

What is the meaning of the term “atas”?

“High class”

So when I think of these two words, things like – speaking with an accent, tasting expensive wine, dining at high class restaurants, attending concerts and appreciating sounds of jazz and classical, being mesmerised by the depth of literature pieces or theatre works, reading novels of difficult sounding titles, watching art house films, understanding the beauty of art pieces at a museum, dressing in sophisticated clothings’, talking about intellectual or artsy topics, attending socializing parties etc. all come up to my mind.

Bulls***. Being “cultured” doesn’t might you have to engage, or be part of a specific lifestyle or community, like how being in the popular clique doesn’t necessarily make you a “cool” person (though I won’t deny in mainstream terms in a school setting, you are perceived to be cool by others).

Art is not just for anyone?

It is not that art is only applicable or relevant to certain people. Art itself is very diverse  (film/theatre/music/art pieces) and subjective. Some are catered to attract the mainstream audience, while others are the artist’s individual expression of his thoughts, feelings, and perception of the world / environment conveyed into his art work. Or, it could be a mixture of both too.

We might not be able to appreciate many works as such, not because we are “not atas or cultured”, but it could be due to various factors:
1) we cannot understand or relate back to the artist’s perspective and message he wants to bring across through his artwork
2) The art piece is too abstract or deep
3) Only relevant if we’ve been through what the artist has experienced in his life, or happened to have a similar world view as him
3) Did not grow up in a similar culture or environment as the artist, which shapes his worldview
4) Are exposed less or more to certain type of arts respectively
5) Are less or more connected, interested and engaged to certain topics or themes

Relating back to life

I’ve been through the art museums a few times and most of the time, the art pieces don’t really speak to me that much, and I don’t understand them because of factors 1-4 above.

However, SAM had one exhibition on the theme of “Ideologies” last year, and it got me really interested to find out more in-depth about the meaning of the various art pieces e.g. what was the artist trying to convey? I could relate back to some of the artworks because of the relevant theme as such. This is under factor 5.

Yep, so art is for everyone, not just for the “atas or cultured”. If the art work speaks to you, that’s good. If it doesn’t, so be it.

Art house film. Quite a few international art house/indie, or niche films win awards at European festivals. I’ve only been exposed to a few, and for those I’ve watched, I don’t think many of them are good enough to win awards. Mainstream films are many times, better than some of theirs. So, I wonder how the judges perceive what films are considered “award worthy” to them? Some I’ve watched are too abstract to grasp in terms of plot and structure, cinematography style, or draggy and boring. But having said that, art is once again subjective to the eyes of the beholder, and what may be poison to me might be perfume for others and vice versa.

I remember this local short film – Little Maud. Initially, I didn’t like it because I could not comprehend the story. However after watching it a few times, I was emotionally enlightened and touched by the father-daughter relationship. This is why I think some of such films may need more time for us to reflect and fully grasp the story, or watching more of similar film styles will allow us to better appreciate “vague” or “abstract” films.

Theatre and literature. I watched 3 plays before. A Perenakan one, Romeo and Juliet, and a one about a car fight. For the first one, I found it boring, most likely because I could not relate back to the topic and theme. And since my secondary school days, I have found it hard to understand, or appreciate literature books. The car fight was set in a modern setting, and it has a normal dialogue so I found it relevant to my life, and could better connect to the story as such.

Novels. Time to time, some novels do catch my attention but I don’t have a high engagement in reading, nor do I connect with most books in general. It is hard to sustain my attention as I end up feeling bored after a few pages.

Music. Interests. Food and drinks. It does not matter what financial, or social status we belong to, or hang out with, or the genre, cost, or type of passion we engage in – we’re all “cultured” in our own unique and diverse ways.

We don’t have to know intellectual topics, dress, talk, or engage in a certain lifestyle to be cultured. I think the burning passion and purposeful enjoyment we all show towards our respective interests are what makes us “cultured”, simply put.

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Written by: Cass


Featured images credits:  Paris Chia Photography (website), @Instagram@Facebook


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