What looks great on a big screen doesn’t necessarily translate so well to the tiny screens that we have become accustomed to in the ever evolving, technology dependent procession of our daily lives. My concern is that this increasing dependency on handheld devices will indefatigably change the nature of art completely.
Photography in particular has become a huge industry. Once the pursuit of specialists and ambitious amateurs, it is now accessible to almost everyone with a portable device. It has reached this zenith of cultural importance and success mainly because unlike it’s classical twin still knee deep in tangible pigment based mediums and physical tools of application, it jumped on the technological bandwagon and became digital, thus feeding the insatiable hunger that we have all been brainwashed into believing we must have, by telecommunications companies trying to compete with huge corporations who seemingly had a monopoly on the computerised technology market. I personally am aware of the way in which this mania and normalisation for technology has gone ‘viral’, to use a very modern technological term, in just over a decade.
I used to work for a well known telecommunications company who were trying to develop the first WAP phone (Wireless Application Protocol), essentially the first Internet or ’Smart’ phone, at a time when such a notion seemed pointless and ludicrous. Their first model, produced after they conceded to another huge corporation who bought them out, saving them from almost certain bankruptcy over their pie-in-the-sky dreams, was one of the first WAP phones with an inbuilt camera. The resolution wasn’t great, and the possibilities of transferring the images to any other device was taxing to say the least. In fact I remember colleagues around me remarking on why you would want a camera in your mobile phone anyway, what a ridiculous idea! Right…? Funny how things change and become utterly normal. But at the time, back in 2003, it was way beyond most people’s remit of what was considered at all necessary, especially here in the UK. I believe the US were already way ahead of us in terms of being technologically savvy. It was a time when people still physically got together over a pint or two down at the pub and had a good old fashioned face to face conversation. What the hell happened?
Not wishing to sound like too much of a hypocrite, I admit that I grew up with computers, from the first ZX81 home computer to the brand new iMac that I have now, I have always been surrounded by and had access to new technology. I currently own several devices, all of which I am just as guilty of relying on in order to keep me connected to a world that is greater than the one I immediately and quite physically inhabit. But, my heart breaks as the realisation sinks in that the technology we so crave and rely on so heavily is rapidly obliterating the avenues of art that no longer fit the digital interface of our seemingly overnight transformation into a Borg culture. When my art, albeit digital no longer captivates my audience because its details or rich dark tones just don’t translate well into ‘tiny’, then I have a decision to make, I either go the way of the magnificent company Kodak, now non-existent because of its insistence on sticking to its tried and tested ethics, or I change what I do in order to please the goldfish brains of the technological generations, my judge, jury and audience incidentally.
It isn’t a decision I necessarily want to have to make. Unfortunately, the rule is that, if you give people an inch they will run a mile with it. That is to say that most of us succumb eventually, or indeed quite readily to the pressures of industry and politics (mostly industry, politics always lag behind somewhat), These innovative advancements in society are necessary and valuable in so many ways, I acknowledge that and encourage it, but they also harbour a darker side, that of inevitable change and obliteration. The euthanising of perfectly healthy skills and pursuits in favour of the greedy little mouths influenced by even greedier parents who seek to shape the future. Future-proofed protagonists incidentally, who like all of us will also one day be surpassed and supplanted by newer, better things. It has been ever thus.
Is art dying? Will the nature of my photography really have to change in order to serve the masses better?
No, it’s just changing, and that is something none of us can stop unfortunately. We either learn to keep up, or we stop trying. Adaptation is the key to survival. Although, history shows that revolutions are ignited when social creativity becomes stifled in this way, just saying…
But technology affords us great creative freedoms, you might counter. Due to its broad and ever growing global accessibility it means that what was once the pursuit of learned specialists and professionals, is no longer constrained by that hypocrisy. Everyone has the opportunity to express themselves through the visual medium in ways before unimaginable, and isn’t it marvellous! But only insofar as the current technology dictates. And there’s the rub. That inevitable fence that we all seem to straddle, no matter the era or the generation.
Printed books for example have nigh on died a death due to the popularity, or should I say, the promotion of ebooks apparently, even though I don’t actually believe that the industry is as successful as we have been led to believe it is, prolific yes, as so many authors have bounded on to that bandwagon in the hope of not being eternally shelved and overlooked. The recent passing of celebrated author Sir Terry Pratchett is oddly poignant, marking the end of an era where printed books such as his were what the populace occupied and entertained themselves with. Literary art has become an odd no-mans land where printed books are still popular amongst many, but due to lack of demand as people’s attention have steadily become consumed by flash-in-the pan internet articles and outright voyeurism, the industry of producing written works of art is being suffocated, in all its forms. Industry, not the people on the street, is changing the face of art completely. In its indiscriminate drive to line its own pockets, and the desire of politicians to keep their national and therefore the global economy solvent and salient, it is alienating its ‘democratised’ subjects and quashing their incredible creativity in ways that are going to be hard to justify or indeed fix.
“My, you’re in a sour mood today Miss. M!” I hear you mutter loudly under your breath.
Actually no. Not really, I have already succumbed to the notion that my self expression through my art may never even make a dent on anything. And for the most part I am highly appreciative of the support I do get from the small community of friends and fellow bloggers that I encounter in my virtual world. Nothing pleases me more than interacting with like-minded photographers, artists, and writers who willingly spend a few moments of their valuable time appreciating my work. I find it hugely humbling, especially as such interactions seem to have become a cultural rarity these days. But I am a realist, as much as I am also a visionary and dreamer, and even I have to accept that a healthy balance between the two has to be reached in order to satisfy my own artistic needs and urges in a world that struggles to keep up with it self, and as a result could seemingly care less whether I breathe or not.
I am in danger of being drowned by the rich dark tones and details of my own work because it simply doesn’t fit the buoyant model of current practise and acceptability. Maybe it’s a struggle all artists, and indeed people face.
Maybe it’s just that I’ve reached an age where these things begin to matter and become transparent due to the blindfold of youth and subsequent social indoctrination being removed. Worse still, maybe my art just isn’t very good. Like someone posited yesterday, the measure of good art is dictated by popularity alone, and although I can see the logic in that and agree to a certain extent, I can’t help feeling that all artistic expression should be acceptable and openly appreciated. All of us, artists or no, need to be valued and appreciated in order to remain healthy and sane. We’re not Borg, despite the efforts of major industries and governments to assimilate us, and insofar as we allow it. We only have ourselves to blame I suppose.
I still like to believe that my art has a place in the world, despite the pressures.
Foolish, I know…