I thought I would weigh into a big topic because I have been quiet on here for a while. I wanted to write a little something on art. My original idea was to specualte on what the latest paradigm shift would be in artistic expression. i thought i’d write something like an essay but then lost patience and thought I’d just bang it out in one sitting. Too much else to do.
I was leafing through a book I picked up in the RA entitled “British Prints: From the Machine Age 1914-1939”. I knew about Vorticism but was not aware of such talented British artists. I had never come across the Grosvenor Group and am stunned by their art. This is yet another rich stock of art from the inter war periods. Robert Hughes’s The Shock of the New comes to mind. I am not a Stuckist but I agree that I don’t think anything really new and interesting (even Abstract Expressionism and Pop Art) has happened in art since the 1930s - with the possible exception of street art. Why such massive creativity from 1890-1930 and such little since?
The only show I have been to in the last 10 years that was worth the money was Anthony Gormley at the Hayward Gallery. I have to believe that shifts in representational code are prompted by massive changes in consciousness. Such a shift happened with industrialization, mass urbanization and the outbreak of the First World War at the turn of century and the decades afterwards. The proto Victorians at home could not imagine the meat grinding slaughter at the front. A collision of mindsets - an aporia, impossible to explain. Goes into art.
The new speed, the new alienation and the dislocation this created produced great and challenging art. I personally see our immersion in digital technology - if it does not anaesthetize totally - as the responsible for the next big shift. Art should be exploring distraction, immersion and the experience of existence in multiple virtual domains. Or perhaps it already is and I’m just not aware of it. Of course beyond this what art will be produced from technologically enhanced cognition when humans transcend human biology? From what I can see though art is moving forward through the rear view mirror without any sort of headlight vision. Sure, curators like Nicolas Bourriard talk about precariousness, nomadism and wandering as the hallmarks of a new Altermodernity but this just seems to me like postmodernism in new clothes.
There has been brokenness and syncopation in underground electronic music to denote urban decay - but only thanks to the Black Atlantic - but what about in visual cultures? It just has not kept up. I think it is a sad indictment of the state of affairs that infographics, the visual representation of capitalist achievement and / or tyranny of numbers is vaunted so highly. If I see another effing blog with some novel infographics mechanism showing the proportion of hipsters owning new i-pads I’m going to scream.
The only thought I have about a new aesthetic to compare with the speed whiskers, vectorization and streamlining of Futurist and other modernist art is the idea of deceleration – the world has been hurtling but we belatedly see a need to slow down – what is the aesthetic expression of this motif? I also see a deferral and counting back from some future apocalypse or future crisis rather than a confident striding into the future. So what are the semiotic resources that bring this to life? Perhaps it can only be sensorial and kinaesthetic. Immersive art is an interesting area too but can seem to be frivolous and for the sake of it. What does it express about the great confusing paradigm shifts we are living through? Disorientation? That’s too generic. Anyway, rant over but I actually think food packaging even if not open work is far more interesting than most of the art I see. It is just a blessing and a curse that C20th avant-garde is still the freshest most startling work out there. Having said all that, at least there’s the likes of Banksy. A true genius with an ideological agenda.