There’s a problem in art these days: the double-edged sword that is the Internet. And I would like to draw similarities between the publishing world and the art world in this regard. Take the current state of the publishing world: the printed word is on its deathbed, newspapers are sinking into obscurity, and with blogs (this thing is laced with hypocrisy, so be prepared), almost anybody can type something up and have it be read by an audience. Certain filters are being destroyed – specifically, the publisher. Now, it’s all well and good that someone can just up and write a thing, then push it out and have it be read, but what is the cost?
The cost is an inundation of drivel. And I do not use the word lightly. The shining example would be fan-fiction; did you know there are 2,797 stories wherein elements of other things (ranging from TV Shows to Comics to “wrestling”) are combined with Doctor Who that are currently readable on fanfiction.net? That is a single website. After Postmodernism shot Modernism in the back, and we all rejected the false god of impossible standards, people stopped caring about the importance of progress. Why try to develop your skill when you can write multiple thousand-word stories about Time Lords fighting Sith Lords, and receive praises full of positive feedback?
Things like this do not exist solely on the Internet. Case in point: Twilight. Narrative aside, there is an inarguable truth about it: it is poorly written. Standards are slipping. While I’m sure it’s not the only culprit, Twilight has also brought to bear a whole genre where nothing worthwhile is being said. And this is bad, because these things are selling. It’s the unheeded warning of Brave New World. More time spent on unchallenging entertainment is more time being complacent.
But this is supposed to be about art.
The art world isn’t safe from this effect either, but it is much more invisible- you do not need a publisher to make art, and galleries and curators have a much harder time goading artists into changing things than publishers do with writers. There is no “crisis of the gallery representing the artist”. The similarity is inundation.
There is a sea of art blogs – But Does It Float, ffffound.com, the list goes on – and there are thousands of works of art displayed on these sites constantly, all instantly viewable. I’ve spent hours clicking around these places, scrolling down endlessly, just looking. And that is the problem. How often do people stop and look? How often do people critically think about all the (thousands upon thousands) of images they see every day? There’s just so much to see, all instantly available - who wouldn’t try to see it all?
There’s a backlash to this – superficiality. The most visually striking things are oftentimes the things that we look at the longest, even if it’s a difference of a matter of seconds. Which, of course, makes sense – if the visual arts are supposed to be visual (they are), shouldn’t that be the most important thing? I would agree, but what is more important is staying around to see what art has to say. This focus on superficiality is the death knell of Postmodernism. To plagiarize (sorry, “reappropriate”) Kurt Vonnegut, art is disappearing up its own asshole. Commercialization of art is mostly to blame. If the most striking, the most “poppy” art sells, then that is what will be encouraged. Focusing on producing and disseminating what is simply “pretty” refuses art of its most powerful ability: providing society a mirror with which to self-reflect upon.
To end this on a positive note, the death of Postmodernism is approaching. While I have extremely mixed feelings about it, Postmodernism has taught us some important lessons: it singlehandedly destroyed the idealization of a singular goal, it showed us how cyclical things can be, it allowed us to drop pretensions, and ultimately was a good moment in the bizarre lifespan of art. But when it comes down to the wire, this is a dead horse that cannot be beaten any longer. There are oppressive things about it that must be overturned – especially the cynical notion that everything that can be done, has been done.
If you love art, go to galleries. Think about things. It’s our responsibility to bury Postmodernism and put something new on the pedestal.