The world as we know it is changing, as it has always been changing.
All is dynamism, nothing remains the same; and perhaps the luckiest aspect of humanity’s experience has been the short length of our individual lives.
Imagine having lived through the last two hundred years. Just try.
For thousands of years our species has slowly but surely shifted, one generation upon the next, gaining momentum. Now here we are, participating in the imagined ‘future’ of the sci-fi 1950’s and 60’s. I wish we where all wearing silver jumpsuits, that would be more honest.
But the reality is something far more varied and subtle.
The diversity of our experience is fascinating; for most of the world’s population still lives very much as their grand-parents did, scraping out an rural hand-to-mouth lifestyle, only now they wear ‘western’ hand-me-downs and may have a satellite-TV in their village.
It is incredible that in a shanty-town, like my home town of Port Villa, Vanuatu- you are more likely to see sat-dishes than traditional garb (unless they are doing a ‘performance’ of ‘culture’ for the tourists) or that someone living in a one of these huts would know who Justin Bieber is, or be excited over who just won on ‘So You Think You Can Dance’.
For me, living as I do in one of the luckiest counties in the western world this all seems academic –just a novelty of the on going Armageddon of the now.
I aim to be reflective not too critical, however there is a point to be made on the reality we have created for ourselves through such so-called social-media websites and constantly connected ‘devices’ we all seem so attached to.
As an artist, who knows many artists of all ilk’s, it seems that the last 20 years has manifest (via the availability and prevalence of technology) an explosion in creativity in many- if not all mediums. Yet allow me to put my cards on the table:
I am a blissful Luddite. I do not own or have any desire to be an ‘izombie’ or join the ‘apps-pocalypse’, and I am lucky enough, and just old enough to remember the world prior to the Internet.
Let me just get that clear.
But there is an argument to be had about this level of connected-ness. Almost all the ‘creative-types’ I know have benefited from the birth of such networks. I myself was very interested at the potential of this service back in the day when we where all on ‘myspace’ (which still lives btw, it’s just more music orientated) and produced an artwork specifically designed to engage with this ‘online reality’. Yet I was acutely aware of the effect of ‘re-formatting’ my drawings into ‘jpegs’, and did what I could to compensate for this but I had no idea that just around the corner was twitter, instagram and tumbler. My contribution was a hand drawn daily comic-blog, which I photographed on locations and in-situ that worked as a ‘open-diary’ of sorts, in which I described my day-to-day life for an entire year (2007).
Now I see that most artists live ‘online’, and this has been very beneficial for most of us: creating opportunities, making connection, allowing us to self-promote and spread ourselves from our studios and bedrooms to a global-audience with just a few double-clicks. But what is the side effect of this brave new now?
In a dualistic view of the universe, everything is a double-edged sword…if that metaphor still makes sense in modernity. I mean it cuts both ways, for all the gains there must be equal losses. The Yang and the Yin. What do I mean?
One example is the scene known as ‘street-art’; a natural place for me to start, part of global pop-culture I know quite intimately It’s hip, it’s happening and just about anyone who can cut a stencil or hold a spray-can can become an instantaneous sensation.
“Doing a Banksy”…excellent, see it works?
However, what has that actually done to the ‘Art’ and our experience of it?
It’s not a question of ‘low-art’ and ‘high-art’, for the Pop-artists of the 1960’s burned that effigy very effectively. What I’m taking about is that now a painting is a photo-file before it has even had the chance to dry, and what does that mean? Great, so the local authorities don’t need to ‘chase’ vandals anymore, they just need to cruise the constant stream of images flooding into their phones for free and arrest those they don’t consider to have merit, or those who they feel has too much gumption. Council-workers have become ‘street-curators’ in a sense, and ‘buff’ off the ‘crappy-tags’ and preserve the ‘art’. Am I getting old, or does this situation seem just a little post-modern for easy digestion?
Where IS the ‘street’ now? You may as well be a photo-shop master instead of an actual mural-sized painter huh? Not only does it save time but also stop all those terrible noxious chemicals being eroded off the wall into the water supply and of course-the rest of the natural world unto which we all belong. Plus the ‘toys’ (people you don’t respect) can’t ‘slash’ (vandalize your vandalism) or ‘burn’ (paint over your work with something better) your twitter account yet like they can if you did actually bother to paint the thing for real-real!
In a major institution like a national gallery or museum the average punter spends I believe 1.3 seconds viewing a piece of art. I don’t know who and how they came up with that figure, but my day-job has taught me that number is actually a pretty generous. Most people just stand still long enough to raise their phone, click and step onto the next work. Some don’t even stop to take the photo and just stroll and flash, not even slowing their trudging to see if the phone’s camera was fast enough to ‘capture’ anything at all. Yuck.
I have been privileged enough to be paid to stand in front of these works for hours, if not days at a time. Some of these artworks took hundreds of hours to paint or carve or whatever.
Walk, click, post…chat, update status, share…click…click…F-ing click.
(Why do they even build that sound into a phone-photo now? It’s weird and annoying to have to listen to hour after hour knowing there is no need for it. Kids these days don’t even know what that sound is meant to be replicating!)
A Zen Buddhist may ask: when is a painting not a painting?
When it’s a photo of a painting dummy.
Are we experiencing the world now, or just ‘blog-ing’ it?
A recent study found that due to the prevalence of this click and forget mentality we are not ‘remembering’ as we used to. Our brains are smarter than we are, and if it can ‘out-source’ storing all the data of the mundane day-to-day, then it will. Does that mean we all have more ‘spare-brain’ then to fill with poetry or philosophy? Do I need to be sceptical?
Do I need to say it?
If you’re smart enough or interesting enough to have read this far I’m sure you can figure out for yourself what we are using our brains for right now.
Epidemic of narcissism anyone?
Found any lint in your navel from all that gazing lately?
They now have women’s make-up designed for how it looks in those doe-eyed cleavage photographs, not how it works in the human-eye. So ask yourself, when did the ‘selfie’ become more important than the ‘actual’ self?
This starts to butt right up against something called ‘human-nature’ then, but what, pray tell is that nature? It isn’t morals or ethics, these are social-constructs and subject absolutely to the time, place and culture you where born into. In the words of Terrence McKenna, ‘culture is not your friend’. So just who, or what are we? Are we benefiting from this new way of being human, or is it in fact ‘de-humanizing’ us as individuals and/or as a species?
Let me ask you this, have your had a serious relationship end on you recently?
If so, did this ‘social-networking’ help or hinder you?
Did it create opportunity or did it instead allow you to become obsessive and angry with your now ex-partner for going on and having a social life after you and what you had between you? Did you ‘block’ or ‘delete’ your former ‘loved-one’?
Did you, or more to the point, are you still ‘checking-up’ on them?
Does it bother you to know, or would you prefer not to know?
Your answer starts your path to the sociology of our collective-nature.
You can’t help it. You’re only human, right?
To finish this reflection, I ask you all to do a little research into who made the ‘internet’ and why. You use this thing daily, yet very few people have any concept of the history of its creation and true purpose of it. I’m not going to tell you... this is something you should discover on your own. Take the time to use this huge data bank for something other than your self-centeredness or ‘liking’ someone else’s cat-tube-videos and get real- I would beg you. But that ain’t Taoist.
I simply and humbly suggest you treat your phone as a phone,
your thumbs as thumbs and your life as a life. Maybe your hands should be empty as often as they are full? But that’s just a suggestion.
It is totes up to you who you think you are.
Because; in truth, no one else’s ‘comments’ or ‘shares’ can, so maybe- just maybe, you should find that out. That’s just a suggestion.
(Ps. Before you cry hypocrite- I obviously recognize the irony of publishing this via the Internet, but I am actually seeking a way to ‘print’ this into a format that will actually be ‘read’ in the real world- just as a btw. P-out.)