THE ARTIST AND TECHNOLOGY - 23 JUNE 2012
Spring Beach Storm - Virginia Beach, VA
I’m reading a book by Dr. Ken Robinson. This book is about our educational system and how it’s inadequate for the challenges of the new world. The book--We’re Out Of Our Minds--follows many trails on why our educational system is inadequate. It also promotes the utility of creativity as a solution to many of the challenges of today. In efforts of talking about creativity, artists, and technology--sometimes completely separate concepts--Dr. Robinson brings up a great point. When a new technology becomes popular, many artist make their art look the same on the new technology as they did with the old.
What does that mean? What it means is when there’s a new technical revolution, artist might use the new technologies in the same fashion as the old. For example, photography is a relatively new art form. It’s been used since the mid-1800’s which is not saying it’s in the same art age category as painting, literature, or music. Compared to them, photography is definitely the new kid on the block.
If you researched what photographs looked like when photography was first embraced by artists you would see photographic samples of that artist pretty much making their photos look just like their paintings. You’d see very static portraits. Landscapes while sweeping were composed very similarly to what the landscape painters of the day were already accomplishing. Just because you had a new technology didn’t mean your art form would advance too terribly quickly. While the technology was being adopted, the art wasn't quickly being transformed.
But there's more. Let's look at what happened to painting when photography was just getting its legs. Just on the surface, you could see the rise of the impressionist age. Coincidentally it began in the mid-1800’s just as photography was being accepted. Soon static portraits and landscapes were yielding to impressionistic interpretations of the subjects. It was as if the literal interpretation of subjects was adopted by photography with painting now freed to explore new dimensions. A reasonable argument could be made that without the advent of photography the new ages of painting like impressionism and the like wouldn't have matured like they did.
It was a common trait back in those days when people first saw photography. They'd say "what's the point? I already have paintings. Why would I admire photographs when they aren't even in color?" Oh how things change. Let me paraphrase what I've said before "if you don't understand the technology doesn't mean it's not important".
Remember my article last week? It was about the camera in your phone and the death of photography. In a nutshell the detractors of such photographic tools were saying "what's the point, I already have a full-sized full-up camera? Why would I dumb down my art by using such an inadequate tool?" Well, because what's possible with this little camera hasn't been revealed yet.
Ten years ago, I used to participate in photography forums when photography was making its transition from analog film/slides to the digital you see today. I've written about this before in that the type of picture that's usually revered in such forums are typically tack sharp, classically composed, and perfectly exposed. Except for the subject and perhaps the subject, one submission after another looked like the next. Rarely was a tremendous round of applause given to a truly innovative image. In those circles, the revolution of digital photography did not revolutionize the art. Far from it. In fact, I bet you could say "more of the same" was being produced at incredibly efficiently because of the digital age. Even though the technology could allow you to explore the ends of the artistic envelop, it wasn't being used in such ways. More of the same was being made.
When I hear folks wondering about a new technology then deriding the benefit it might make towards their art, I feel they're not exercising the creativity that exists in themselves.
Creativity is not an isolated process. The image of a hermit artist creating amazing works in the seclusion of their mountain paradise does not fit my vision of creativity. Creativity is a collaborative affair where at least the artist gains influences from every and all sources. A technique here, a tool there, a vision that direction, and recommendation from someone else. They all come from interacting with folks. The Ah Ha moment is a bit overly dramatic. It's more like slugging out at the art hour after hour after hour. It's working with others to get ideas on color, composition, anything. Then at the end of that struggle, you might get a workable piece. If not, the process starts all over again for the next piece.
With advent of social media and the internet age, we have so many tools to interact with others. We can collaborate like we never could before whether it be by sharing favorites on Facebook, video talks about your painting across the country, or simply showing off your work through a website on the worldwide web. The opportunity being your connections contributing to your art like never before.
It's not bad that artists are slow to mature their art forms. I appreciate it taking years to develop a special style that's theirs and they can be identified by that style. Still, with huge advances in technology there's so much opportunity for artists to remake themselves successfully like never before while still being true to their own sense of aesthetics. All it takes is the realization their art is a living breathing adapting thing and yes, they can amaze, inspire, connect with their audience with all these technological advances.
Technology is not bad.