Art in the Future

Friday night. Felt like blagging.*

Just watched a fascinating documentary (appropriately posted over on YouTube) about the future of art in modern western culture, in the face of this exponential technological revolution, the ease with which art is produced by younger, poorer, less-educated people, and what it all means to a whole slew of writers, filmmakers, artists, and musicians.

You can find the video here;

And about halfway through I got all worked up about some of the pretentious things some of these “artistic types” were saying and had to just say my piece.

Which is to say, though there were many positions taken in the film and many issues brought up, my stance on some of the broader and semi-controversial issues is such:

One, art is about the product, and the communication of that product with the audience. Art is communication, usually of an emotion, and so requires two people: the artist and the audience. Many people disagree with this and point toward art as a kind of internal meditation or cathartic process, which indeed it can be, but that’s not art–What that is is either masturbation or therapy.

Art is telepathy, art is discussing those ideas that run below our material world with signs and symbols that speak toward a conversation bigger than ourselves.

And so art is not about process. Process can seek to add a deeper meaning to a work, but that is only one way of critically studying a piece of art, and should by no means be an exclusive explanation to disregard someone’s art. So whether the song is produced on a computer over the course of a day or in a studio over the course of three months, the art should stand regardless.

Because many young people can now access materials for cheap to make music and film, simply because they have the means and produce does not mean that the quality is in any way lessened.

Though indeed, because now everyone can, a lot more people now think they can. Due to this, there is a plague of mediocrity. But this should prompt, not a blanketing of our culture in “gray goo,” but instead a more critical viewing eye on the part of the audience. Which is what I try to do by, frankly, shredding every new horror movie that arrives in theaters in the desperate hope I’ll see something withstand (a la Black Swan or Perfect Sense). Maybe even as a culture we’re being trained to be too nice, too supportive, too open, coddling what’s not quality art. (This could lead to a rant on bullying, but I’ll leave that to another day).

Though, this also leads to the question of what is bad art? If we as a society lower our collective level of critique and are so rewarded with intellectual, emotional experiences from mediocre productions, is that bad? I think so, because I’ve seen some of the crap hollywood produces, heard the music on the radio, and read some of the fiction circulating and I don’t know how we can engage in any kind of stimulating discourse on the matter.

“I don’t think a young Hitchcock or Scorsese would make it in this business. Slap up their early stuff on Facebook, on YouTube, it would get lost in an ocean of garbage. Remember in 2007, Time Magazine gave the award of best person of the year to you, ourselves, you and I. It’s global masturbation.”

-Andrew Keen (who I kind of disagree with everything he says but love to listen to anyway)

But what is overlooked, it seems, is that good art will always transcend mediocrity. If art is good, it is operating on a level that is there awaiting recognition by anyone so prepared to engage with it, and so long as there is an audience, even of only one, there will be a place for good art. At worst, good art will become again elitist, as was suggested in the film.

As for our definitions changing for what kind of forms art will take in a new digital age, there’s an important difference in how it’s distributed; distribution is politics. It’s economy. It’s industry. That’s not art, and while a fascinating topic of discussion, should not influence our reception of art. As far as art taking new forms, new styles, new genres, and new media, HELL YES. So whether it’s dubstep, or stories told through internet websites, or a movie made through a series of vlog-style videos on youtube, whatever it is, that can be art too; so long as there’s an intellectual and/or emotional discourse that accompanies it.

That’s why, if I may rant, I can’t really stand it when people blanket-hate on dubstep. I’ve seen dubstep music infect audiences more than many other kinds of music during performances. I love it because I, myself, cannot help but move when I listen to it. There’s something powerful there, and that’s what music is all about, isn’t it? Who cares if there aren’t guitars and it’s very beat-heavy? What difference do the mechanics make?

Toward the end of the movie, these producers started making distinctions between performance of a song and a digital mp3 file, or the difference between track-based music culture and record-based. What’s the fucking point of making such distinctions and calling one better than another?

Who the fuck cares if you listen to a song for four minutes through an iPod or a sixteen-track record on your turntable. If it’s a musical experience that we’re lost in, what’s the difference?

Concerts, in the film, were argued to be some kind of future of music, because it’s a more immersive experience than plugging in headphones; which is true in some cases, but to compare one to the other is apples and oranges. When it becomes performance and collective-based, it’s a different genre of art altogether.

My point then comes down to this; art is art. And to get fuddled up in the details about media, process, and what the future might look like, is too often (and quite often, as the movie relays in fascinating fashion) missing the point. After that it’s people afraid of change and too caught up in their own pretentious definitions of “true” art that reject what’s happening on the foundational level.

</rant>

Fascinating excerpt from the film that scares the crap out of me:

What are your thoughts though? If you watch the movie or just read my blog? Is art doomed? Is process important? Am I just too bored on a weekend? Sound off down below.

*”Blagging” see, http://xkcd.com/148/

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