Friday, January 20, 2012

Things I Have Learned Collecting Records (which have nothing to do with music)

# 1 – Organization

I am not the most naturally organized of humans. However, collecting records have taught me that proper care and storage of a collection requires diligence. It takes a lot of time to maintain a constantly used collection in it's proper organizational structure, especially if you want ease of access.

Every collector has their own chosen way to organize what they collect. I have a large 5' x 5' square shelf unit from Ikea. I arrange my records alphabetically by either the musician or the group, and within that subset I arrange the records chronologically, which helps me place the records in context to each other. I have created filing labels to mark my collection, so the individual letter's are easy to see.

Some musical groups have a more extensive archiving. Sonic Youth, for example, have been making music together for over thirty years. Since they are my favorite band ever, I try to collect as much of their output as I can. Because of this I have divided their records up by studio releases, SYR releases, full-length bootleg releases, 12” singles, 10” singles, 7” singles, group side projects, and individual side projects, all in respective chronological order. It is where my anal-retentive obsessive side is allowed to shine. Believe me when I say my Sonic Youth collection is not yet complete.

# 2 - Patience

The world we live in does not place a premium on patience. Music consumption these days is no different. We want the world and we want it now. That's what Jim Morrison sang. Living that way burns one up. Jim did not make it to thirty. Collecting records is a compulsive hobby, driven by desire. Whether that desire is for the music itself, or the fetishized object that is a rare gate-fold album, it is omnipresent.

When looking for old, out-of-print records I must have the patience to look through hundreds or thousands of records before finding one I want to spend money on. I may run across multiple copies that I do not buy due to scratches, damage, etc. Sometimes I find records that I have been looking for actively for several years. I still have dozens on my personal wish list yet to find. Only patience keeps me from going crazy when looking through a record convention's worth of bins and boxes!

Apart from the acquisition of the records, the enjoyment of them requires patience. Records are fragile and need to be well-kept. Playing them requires careful handling of the media and equipment, even with the simplest turntables. Listening to records I have collected is not just about wish fulfillment. For every album I listen to and instantly connect with, there are two or three that take multiple listens, allowing for time to do it's thing on the brain. “Difficult” music, whether Ornette Coleman's Free Jazz, or Sonic Youth's Bad Moon Rising requires patience to at first understand, and then secondly to enjoy what is being given to your ears. Records, due to their nature, are more likely to be played straight through than CD's or digital media. Having a little button that instantly skips anything your ears find initially off-putting does not teach patience, but the exact opposite, a sense of entitlement due to an inflated sense of self-worth that breeds urgency and instant wish-fulfillment. Good things take time.

#3 – Collecting is a lonely existence

Due to it's time-consuming nature, the hobby of collecting becomes quite a solitary enterprise. The enjoyment of the collection can happen alone on in social settings, but the acquisition of the individual items is done by you alone. If you are lucky you have a few friends who are also bitten by the same collecting bug and who are willing to go with you and spend hours browsing through old, dusty, shitty records hoping you find something golden.

Even then, you may end up actually interacting with them just a few times an hour, because you are focused. You are flipping two separate boxes of records with both hands, scanning with your eyes like some sort of factory machine designed to spot imperfections, only you are looking for perfection, or at least that cool album by Miles Davis where he sang with the Muppets. (Does it actually exist?) The joys are solitary too. Those same friends you go record shopping with may scoff at your selections, and often will. The joy and pain are yours and yours alone.

As the collection grows it begins to take up actual living space around you. The pride in such a collection is again just yours alone. Your loved ones may admire and enjoy your collection but it is not their collection. It has not been built up by them through hundreds of trips to record stores, garage sales, or record conventions. Those long car trips were made by you. Those shelves or cases or boxes were arranged by you. The knowledge of it's totality exists solely in your head. As you have had to add new records to the already arranged stacks you sort through them, again and again, seeing older records as old friends, much like people see their books. You know exactly where to reach to find the real favorites among the bunch, either because you play them often or because you like to pull them out to show off to fellow collector nerds.

If you think collecting something like records or books or stamps is a lonely thing, imagine the worst aspect of collecting, those people who collect whatever is en vogue currently. For a brief period of time people such as those who collected Beanie Babies flourish among what seems like a ton of other people sharing your passion. It seems that what is being collected actually matters to normal people. The prices go through the roof for the rare ones. It can be quite a rush for some. The ride always comes to an end and usually way too soon for most people's tastes. Those collectors are then left alone, with no collecting pals, with a collection of shit they overpaid for and which will likely never see an increase in value within their lifetime. That is truly lonely.

# 4 – Value exists in your own head

Everything you value, every single tiny bit of worth you see in anything is purely a product of your own creation. How did collecting records teach me this? For one thing, record collecting shows you how value itself is an ephemeral illusion. What is worth money to one person is worthless to another. What is worth little today is a sought-after collector's item tomorrow, and vice-versa. Value does not exist independently of everything else. Value is a purely subjective idea, dependent on everything from rarity to condition to location. Because of this, record collecting needed to be about something more than just the accumulation of monetarily valuable objects for me. The value of the records lay in how I chose to think about them.

This applies to every aspect of life where value judgments must be made, and it informs what becomes meaningful to me. I am better able to understand what is really important to myself, because I know that I am the only one who sees it that way. What I find valuable in life is important because I find it valuable, not because the value is an inherent quality. This can refer to anything from Unsane's music to what restaurants I enjoy. It has allowed me to try and resist the throngs that are seemingly swept away every second of their lives by what others consider valuable. It has also sucked in that part of the joy of music is sharing the love of it with others. It is sad seeing whole chunks of one's record collection becoming slowly forgotten by the world around you.

The sad truth is that everything is forgotten in time. Even those people, places and things that become legendary are remembered erroneously, their true selves forgotten in favor of an easy to tell legend. Someone like Robert Crumb, who amassed a definitive collection of very early delta blues 78's, lives in a world within his own mind, enjoying a music that most of the world has forgotten existed. Upon an owner's death, some collections are kept intact as historical archives, others are sold off to other collectors in auctions, and yet others are disposed of as if worthless, for a collection is only important to those who know and understand it's contents. That is the ultimate loss of value, knowing that your collection may well end up discarded after your death. These thoughts come to the true hardcore collectors.

With such heavy shit it is a good thing music is so fantastic!

January 2012

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Levels of Music Love

There are three kinds of people in the world. Those who love music, those who like music, and those who do not enjoy music. That last category does not concern us. People who do not enjoy music of any form, who claim outright to dislike music, are quite the mystery in and of themselves, but let us talk instead of the differences that arise between those who love music, and those who merely like music.

A music lover will hear a new song and, if the song strikes their fancy, will then proceed to seek out more of that artist/group's music. Enjoying that, a music lover will keep an eye out for more and more of that person's music, as long as it continues to entertain them. They actively seek more, eventually amassing some type of collection of that artist/group's music. This process may take years and can allow that artist's music to become a deep and meaningful part of someone's life.

A person who merely “likes” music, as opposed to loving it, will hear a song that strikes their fancy, fall in love with it, listen to that one song constantly, suck every bit of juice out of it until it is as desiccated and tedious as a song can get, and then move on to the next tune that happens to hit their ears. Some effort may be made towards seeking more music from the same artist, but usually, once it is seen that the other songs do not sound like the one that hit them hard, that person is willing to move on to a new tune. This method of ingesting music can create some very strong sense/time memories, due to the overload of the music on the brain over such a short and intense period of time.

Once a music lover has exhausted the available music of a given artist/group, they will then investigate further. Are there other bands that sound similar, or have the same vibe whose music may be good too? Maybe this band was influenced by some musician previously unknown to you? Have these musicians ever played in other groups? Questions such as these allow for new music to expand the musical map in a music lovers brain. Previously unseen connections are brought to light. Sometimes a certain recording may become more meaningful to you, and others may lose some of their luster when compared to previous acts. One never knows what will arise but there is always more to explore. This creates a deep connection between the music lover and the musicians involved, as their individual contributions are explored and analyzed.

The “Liker” of music does not concern themselves with any of this. Instead of looking for more music by the group that made the song they heard and loved the “Liker” waits until his sources provide him with a new tune by that artist. These sources can range from their favorite radio station, to their favorite nightclub, from friends to the television. And, if the next song that comes down the pike is a stinker? No problem, because the “Liker” is not personally invested. There are more songs every day. Because the “Liker” does not actively expand their mental sonic map as the music lover does he never develops personal connections to the creators of the music itself, just to the individual songs. If an artist has a lot of hits then the music “Liker” will feel a bigger connection by virtue of exposure. Otherwise, they move on to the next hit by the next artist. Either way, the names and careers of the musicians involved in crafting the hits are unimportant, and do not factor in the “Liker's” enjoyment of the songs they like.

A music lover becomes more willing to accept musical risks taken by their favorites. They would expect nothing less. Solo records are seen as an intimate view into one member of a favored musical group. In an odd irony, music lovers also appreciate any artist who fiercely maintains one style as their own through the ever-changing musical fadscape. In other words, a music lover accepts what a musician gives them on the musician's terms. Of course it is judged and examined and compared but it is given a fair shake.

Music “Likers” sometimes infuriate music lovers because they see no value in the deeper analysis, which to them seems like an obsession with the unimportant parts of music. The “Likers” love the songs, and will love the songs forever. Music lives in the moment, more so than most other art forms. Recorded music is not music until it is vibrating the air through some mechanism or other. It is to be enjoyed in the moment, to be danced to, to serve as the background to life. This is a different and quite valid joy, but it does not allow for one's brain to interact with the minds making the music, only to react.

There is no correct way to enjoy music. There are only more ways to enjoy music. Everyone begins as a music “Liker.” Even people who consider themselves musically sophisticated originally just listened to what they liked and sought nothing more. Liking music is the first step to loving music. It is not always easy to be a music lover, and a lot is asked of you if you are one, but like all things, the reward is as great as what is put into it. Music is humanity’s best friend and deserves to be loved.

January 2012

The Fine Line Between Collecting and Hoarding

Almost everyone, at some point in their lives, has amassed a collection of something. Some choose baseball cards, others postage stamps, and yet others collect driftwood. The possibilities are endless for collecting. A collection does not have to have any inherent monetary value. It can be a collection for purely emotional value. Most collections however, straddle both these worlds.

Take, for example, someone who collects vinyl records, as I do. There are items in my collection that are prized for their rarity, or the cost incurred in acquiring the item. Others are prized because the music contained within is emotionally important to me. Yet others are kept because of the cover art, or innovative packaging. This is true for most types of collecting.

The trick lies in knowing when a collection is complete, or as complete as you are gonna get. There are only so many Sonic Youth records one can acquire, before it becomes more of an exercise in completism than an enjoyable pastime. There are only so many shoes a woman can buy before the ridiculousness of hundreds of pairs for just one pair of feet becomes self-evident. Many collectors fear this. Once they have amassed the collection, it is more favorable to them to then sell it to others, allowing the new owners the same thrill they received previously. They then go on to collect something else. Even if they do not get rid of the previous collection, they begin with a new collection right away.

Many collectors have several groupings of things they collect. The greatest collectors will go on to donate their collections to museums or institutes of higher learning, allowing the public to share in their acquisitions. Others hold onto them with a strong grip, to the grave. These are the collectors who blur the line between collecting and hoarding. They become so obsessed with acquiring any and all ephemera associated with their particular collecting “jones” that they lose sight of the true goal, which is to take enjoyment from the collected items! Certain people get so protective of their collections that they barricade themselves in their home, adding layers of security, until they must feel like they are living in a prison of their own making.

The odd part is that while two people may share the exact same delusional drive to collect,the one that gets anal-retentive and creates displays and keeps his items spotless and in perfect condition, all sterile and unused, the masses see as normal! The people who clutter their lives with the collected items, whose homes look more like a child's room than a museum, are seen as warped, sick, maybe needing help of some sort. While they are both worlds apart in appearance, their inner lives are probably very much alike. It is a near-delusion, the mania of a collector in the full throes of the hunt, and not for the faint of heart.

Is it that a person who hoards seems to give no thought to the actual care and maintenance of what they hoard? Collectors take great care in buying the right furniture to display their collections, oftentimes having cases and shelves custom made. Hoarders seem to be satisfied with the ownership of an object, and do not seek to properly organize. Their organization mainly consists of grouping like items together, with no consideration to the decay or damage caused to the hoarded material. A collector would be shocked at such ill treatment of their prized possessions. Where does the line exist? It may be a far blurrier line than ever imagined.

January 2012

The Life Of An Artist

Why does anyone choose to be a professional artist? It is a nearly thankless endeavor, and a solitary nightmare. The rewards are in the creation itself. It is a hard thing to explain, unless one experiences it. To be an artist in America these days is to either be ignored completely and relegated to a substrata just above menial laborer, or to become a walking cartoon, oversimplified and underdeveloped, dancing the little artsy jig to entertain the bored and idle rich.

If not yet established and known, an artist is forced to ham it up, to create a persona that screams “artist” and yet that is refined enough to appeal to the wealthy patrons, who are the only people these days who really spend any money on art. Regular people spend money on decorations for sure, but spending $200 at Ikea to decorate a room is a lot different from spending $800 on a single painting, which is why the world of Fine Art is a lofty one, at least from the point of view of the major supporters. One has to make an impression on these people, people for whom superficial impressions are their very existence. However, most artists are mercurial, self-guided people to whom superficiality is a chore.

The public is fickle, and it wants it's next flavor-of-the-month now. This used to consist of finding and supporting an artist whose work was innovative, fresh, exciting. Now it more and more seems to consist of finding an artist who is an interesting personality, or who has a bizarre back-story, or who comes from the lowest of means, yet who looks and acts and carries themselves in a way fitting with the posh company that is the customer base.

In nearly any endeavor, it is important to present yourself in a manner which will benefit you and allow for others to trust you enough to give you their money. This is just a part of life. To be a doctor you must look the part as well as have the necessary education. To be a cop you have to walk differently than regular people, as if you are always enforcing the law. To be an artist, you need to be able to socialize and converse with people whose educations and refinement are of the highest order. This can be a hard thing to pull off for an artist whose life is spent absorbed in his art. Many artists have issues with social situations which is why they put themselves in their work, and ask that that be judged that way. However, to socially please customers is part of the requirement, even if it kills a little part of you.

You see, the art-buying public is not just buying artworks. They are also buying a connection.
There are many stories of how an artist's gallery will sell a work of theirs under the stipulation that the artist go to the purchaser's home and discuss the work and themselves with the buyer. Some people are just curious and want to know more about you, while others are using you to entertain their friends at a dinner party with conversation. It can make an artist feel like a tool, just as easily as it can make an artist feel appreciated.

Many are purchasing the work of a new artist either with the hopes of owning what could become very valuable in the future, or to gain the cache that comes from being among the perceived elite who are savvy enough to buy valuable things early, before the teeming masses get their mitts on it. An artist truly has little choice as to who purchases their work, and why. The only option available is to not sell the work, which is financially unthinkable for many artists who live off of one or two large sales a year, if they are lucky.

Once the work is sold the artist has to live with the fact that it may go up in a place of honor in someone's home, or it may just get stacked in a closet somewhere. It may be displayed in a horrible frame. It may be destroyed by accident or negligence. It may never see the light of day again. For an artist who has put part of himself in his work, this is a terrible thing to have to live with, but it must be accepted if one wants to continue. The life of an artist seems to be one of endless heartbreak.

Even if an artist gains quick fame the expectations just rise up afterwards. It is never enough to continue in a given vein, not for the art world. They want to see you expaqnd and grow and challenge yourself. These are all code words for "we do not want to see the same thing twice." The art world does not take the time to truly appreciate an artist's work, before it is seeking different work. This gives a premium to an artist like Damien Hirsch who just comes up with a new wacky idea every year and "surprises" the art world with it. It does not, however, allow for an artist to develop his voice slowly, through trial and error. It must be great the first time and every time thereafter.

There are many reasons why one rarely reads about happy, well-adjusted, fulfilled artists. Even the great Picasso was tormented and alone much of the time. It takes balls to choose such a life.

January 2012

ART FOR TODAY - Part 1 (an attempt at seeing where Art is, and where it needs to be)

The history of the visual image as a means of communication may predate even spoken language. It is easy to imagine some proto-human scratching marks on the ground to communicate with his fellow primates. From such rudimentary beginnings it is just a matter of time before humans as skilled as the artists who painted at Lascaux, or Chauvet are using marks and color and line to not only share information, but to supplicate the world around them for a good hunt, or to bemoan the death of a loved one.

Images are powerful things. It is no mere coincidence that much of the modern human brain is devoted to the processing of visually received stimuli. Our eyes are our best developed sense organ. Because of this, our images have grown ever more sophisticated as the full extent of our visual power is utilized. The growth appears to be exponential, mirroring much of human development. This growth can be charted like much of history by following the high water marks.

BIG IDEAS come into the world of the visual image when society needs them. The outdated imagery that was supplanted by the development of three-point perspective in paintings existed for millenia before. Flat, two dimensional imagery, in which size was indicative of status as opposed to a true measure, and which represented ideas as opposed to visible reality was the norm for most of the world's visual artists. This was true in the cultures of Mesopotamia, Greece, Rome, Europe, Africa, etc., and speaks of the aims of the visual image in those cultures.
I am not referring strictly to the content of the artworks, to the subject matter. I speak instead of the means available to the visual artists to make their point as those points relate to the culture at large. Let's look at ancient Egyptian art for example.
In Egypt's Old and New Kingdoms the use of visual art was mainly to serve the Pharaoh, the Temples, and the wealthy by spreading propaganda. Whether this was religious propaganda or political propaganda is irrelevant. What is relevant is that the art was straightforward, simple enough for even illiterates to understand the message being imparted. The images were in grids, demarcating a rigid stasis. Egyptians believed their leaders were gods on Earth. They believed in the endless cycle of life, mirroring the Nile river's yearly floods, in which everything plays it's proper part, and the people are but miniscule pawns in a much larger story being played out by the elites. In a desert the only constants are the magnificent terror of the Sun and the durability of stone. Everything else is in flux. Death can come on the back of a locust swarm or the mouth of alligators. Disease is a curse and death is a time of judgment. Life must have seemed so hard to ancient Egyptians. It was so brutal and short that their whole culture became one of worshiping death, or at least the state of being called “dead.”

Could this be why their art is so rigid? Egyptian visual art which survives shows actions, events, places, personages, and tells a narrative story, which can also be read allegorically. It does not place any importance in portraying motion, or the passage of time. It focuses instead on the action, and what that action means. The images do not care about relative size, and are so stylized and formatted as to make it impossible to differentiate between the carved figures. This problem is solved by the use of the cartouche. These are symbols that name the important figures in the artwork, such as pharaohs, gods, etc. The lower classes are portrayed by their jobs, not by anything individual. The artworks themselves were constructed to last for eternity, since whatever one was buried with would be what they enjoyed in their afterlife. Stone carving thus becomes the critical art form for the times. It allowed people of power to inscribe the walls of their death chambers with every possible thing they could ever desire in the afterlife.

These are means to an end. The Egyptians truly believed that birth determined one's life and that the individual will was but an afterthought, in many ways mirroring the modern Indian culture and caste system. Life was just a way-station which would present a person with the challenges, and the person's decisions concerning these challenges would then be judged upon one's death. Of course the art also showed you how to react to the challenges of life, thereby creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. Egypt flourished for millenia with few challenges to this art ideal.

Much of the ancient world worked this very same way. The art served the ruling classes whims, allowing the mass illiterate poor to share in the legends and myths of their culture without having to actually read the source material. Art then served the purpose of pure narrative and allegorical communication from one group of elites to another group of subjects.

As society changes the purposes of art change as well. What used to be something only the aristocracy or royalty could indulge in now became accessible to the just plain wealthy. The houses of the wealthy became the showpiece for their new found appreciation of art, usually centered around portraits of themselves and their relatives which granted the subject a grandeur and power through it's very existence. Art became personal. It was not long before a new middle class of people was created. These people, not wealthy nor poor, but with enough money to afford some of the nicer things and the education to appreciate them, were the ones that opened a floodgate.

The visual image gained wider and wider exposure. Because of the new audience, the art changed as well. Images became appreciated more for their ability to describe and show the real world than for their symbolic and propaganda uses. Since in art everything builds upon everything else, the early reasons for art still exist and will always exist. They are only supplanted like an onion skin atop an onion skin by new demands placed on art. It all builds a framework of visual reference. Regular people were now exposed to more visual imagery than ever before and therefore the sophistication of the audience grew and grew.

The Old Masters managed to combine everything art is about and still explore new paths, new ways to make their art suit their purposes. The discovery of three-point perspective shone a light upon all the previous images. Those with proper perspective are obvious to the eye, to anyone's eye, for perspective allows to the tricks one's eye plays to be used for the full effect of the painting. After a while, any artist not working with proper perspective, or at least faking it as well he could, was considered “naive,” a backhanded compliment which essentially means, “your art is good for someone who knows nothing about art.” This becomes the main driver behind the visual image for centuries. Each new generation perfecting the techniques and ideas that allow for the art required by the times.

Artists are always at the vanguard of culture. Sometimes it is an idea that drives them to new places and sometimes it is a new media. Around 150 years ago the first tube paints were being sold, as the industrial revolution modernized and streamlined the means of production the world over. No longer did artists have to painstakingly prepare and manufacture their pigments and paints, or hire a crew of assistants to do so. The artists was freed to take his canvas and turn art from an indoor endeavor to an outdoor pleasure. Nature again became the main inspiration. These artists could go out into the world with their easel and paints and create artwork of immediacy. A preliminary sketch of a painting which used to take weeks could be done in hours, and many painters began to appreciate the beauty inherent in artwork that sought not to minutely recreate the nature before them, but instead to capture in colored paint, the way light played upon the world.

This was a very big conceptual leap forward. It was pushed along by the science of the times as well. People used to believe everything was what it was innately. A red jacket was a red jacket. A white egg was a white egg. Science showed that, as far as optics are concerned, common sense is useless. A red jacket receives white light, absorbs every color wavelength except red, and bounces red back at our eyes. Our brains then say, “this jacket is red. Paint it red.” Painters early on realized that the nature of the light greatly affects the nature of the color of an object. Morning light would make a red jacket appear violet, whereas overcast light would make the red appear toned with grey or black. Color is created in the eye. Someone like Monet would paint fast, loose, to catch that one specific light effect he sought to recreate in the viewer's eye. Painters were literally trying to paint light.

As the society progresses it absorbs the lessons of artists, and accepts them as truths. Society is stupid that way. Instead of understanding that everything works in a continuum and that nothing end and nothing begins and that one idea does not replace another, society dumps old ideas as fast as new ideas come. These new ideas are then treated as the new dogma. Society is stupid and slow and ignorant and will always need art to show the way to new thought. The problem lies in that society gets more and more rigid and therefore more and more resistant to the changes brought about or implied in artist's work.

These artworks were among many chosen 70 years ago by the National Socialist Party of Germany as being decadent and obscene. They were not decadent nor obscene because of puerile content, or nudity or offensive imagery. These artworks were dangerous to that totalitarian regime, just as dangerous as art remains today for totalitarian governments worldwide, because of the IDEAS.

Ideas in art are pulled by the artists from the meta-structure of humanity's total consciousness. Artists draw material and inspiration from places they do not even register. The entire world feeds their minds. An artists of any type is like a tuning fork. A tuning fork can be made to vibrate by another tuning fork being struck and brought near it. They do not have to touch. One fork vibrates the air and the air then vibrates the previously inert tuning fork. Now imagine an artist, a creative person, whose entire day is composed of endlessly varied stimuli affecting him or her in ways so subtle they may not be apparent for decades. Subtle, yes, but powerfully affecting nonetheless.

As the world turned industrial, and life moved from the pasture to the chaos of urban city living, certain artists felt the pull towards a complete dismissal of representation. They sought truth and beauty in the relationships of colors, lines, shapes, hues and tones. They did not seek to represent anything at all. To them, abstraction was a perfectly natural response to a world ever more constrained, ever more visually cluttered. A day's walk in any city would flood the mind with more visual imagery than a year spent on one's country farm. Imagine what that would do to someone extra-sensitive to stimuli of any sort. It only makes sense that artists sought to escape into pure abstraction.

Abstraction may seem to negate all the rules art had come to be built upon, but it is, in fact, just the end result of the path those rules laid out. Painting involves using colored material to create an image. The relationship in a still-life between a vase, let's say, and a tablecloth is one of color. Color, and how it is placed, defines boundaries, depth, texture, and light, as well as serving allegorically as a symbol. Pure abstraction engages a viewer through the same means as a representative image. The goal is different thought. Representative imagery needs to evoke the actual structure of the world. Abstraction seeks to create a new world to be judged by the aesthetics of the art of painting itself. In an era where anyone can create a near perfect representational image (photography) painting needed to create a sense of it's own value apart from pure documentation.

Dada, Surrealism, Abstract Expressionism, Pop Art, etc., were all attempts to create art that allowed the artists to define art itself, or at least test the boundaries. They set their own rules, or tried to, but these rules were still only workable in direct reference to the boundaries they sought to replace These boundaries are the boundaries demarcated by culture and society itself. The past 200 years have seen the Industrial Revolution change not only art but the viewers of art and the artists as well.

Currently, we are in the midst of another whirlwind change in society, and therefore in humanity. The ability to have the vast sum of human knowledge and endeavor accessible from anywhere on the planet has affected artists greatly. If you think the Industrial Revolution brought chaos and infinite new experience, you will not be ready for what our cyber world is bringing us. If done right, this tool will increase the sophistication of everyone with access to it. Every image ever seen in a museum is available to be viewed through technology. Some artists are using the web itself as an art form, and others are turning into Luddites, afraid of being replaced as image makers by computers, or worse yet, regular people. All this is causing a new change in art.

Art can no longer be just representational, or abstract, or low-brow. Art needs to point the way to the future, good or ill. It needs to change itself to show the way to humanity. What is needed is a new Meta-structure for art. Artists have seemingly exhausted every combination of media, size, shape, color, etc., available for a two dimensional visual image. What has only been tried a few times, by artists such as M.C. Esher, is to create imagery, a new art essentially, which does not depend on the “normal” human points of spatial reference.

January 2012

(Originally published at Open To Interpret)