Art, in my eyes, is like thought: it’s the ideas behind things, the meanings and relationships hiding beyond what we see; and it offers the opportunity to think more conceptually about life than mere thought might allow. Like an embodying of thought with image, so we can look at it differently and maybe understand on a deeper level than simple observation.
While the art world may be this exclusive place full of its traditions and terms, art itself seems a fundamental human function and one capable of instigating important conversations about life and the ideas that guide us (see Notes One).
Figuring out where art sits within modern society is interesting though, as we clearly live in times that are saturated with imagery and ideas that flit around so fast with varying levels of intention, responsibility and skill. Our visual landscape is essentially occupied by commercial interests or others trying to capture attention and cause us to buy into their way of thinking (Notes Two).
As with so much, the challenge seems to be one of discernment: almost anything’s possible, with the barriers of technique and audience largely overcome; but what holds real value for us, what is truly meaningful?
It’s quite a fascinating question on many levels. These days we can all churn out pictures, facts, opinions, thoughts; choosing from all we now know, all we can conceivably care about, and all the new ways of presenting things (Notes Three). There’s this almost endless font of content as we pick over the past, the present, the future, and wave upon wave of trends blended together from the accumulated riches of human civilisations.
Almost like all knowledge and capability has been placed in our hands, where we can make it our own and present that as our perspective, our identity, and our presence. And in a way that’s great, as we all have unique insights and a desire to participate in the social and cultural life of modern humanity; but it must also blur the lines around art.
I mean, we’re all artists in a sense: we look at life, we form our ideas and our personal identity, then we create an image to present to the world through our clothing, belongings, Instagram, persona, interiors, or whatever else. Life becomes our canvas.
And that’s where modern life gets kind of interesting to me: in how so many barriers have been removed within a relatively short space of time. All the traditions, constraints, and expectations that once held societies and individuals quite clearly in place. As if we lifted barriers that once held back distinct bodies of water, leaving them to churn together and find a new level.
Life has changed, and I wonder at times if art risks being swamped as these distinct cultural conversations get swept up with tides of opportunity, novelty, and the clamour for attention or profit. Wondering, and maybe worrying, about what might be lost in the time it takes to find our bearings once again.
Notes and References:
Note 1: How well does art relate to life?
Note 1: Culture, art & human activity
Note 2: Art, collaboration & commodification
Note 2: Culture selling us meaning
Note 3: History as a process of changes
Note 3: Pre-tech in film
Ideas around what happens when the world we perceive becomes darker are explored further within Aesthetic value of nature.