Art in an Immediate World

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What does art mean?

This is just one of many asked by this texting-inspired piece by Desire Obtain Cherish (aka Jonathan Paul). In a world where our noses are often dug into our smartphones, the inquiry of how much we’re really absorbing floats to the surface. At this point, you’re probably asking, what is this chick thinking? Why does this even matter? And what does social media have to do with art?

A lot, actually. I figure my first blog post for a social media class ought to be something relating to something I love, and who knew, but there’s actually a lot of connections between the explosion of technological advances and art.

Social Commentary

It’s not a novel concept to have artists speaking out about current issues, but it’s interesting that many artists – especially street artists – have taken on is our constant need to be connected. Of course, ironically, these images too get shared, Tweeted, reblogged and liked – everything that projects like artist Above’s social street art parody #socialmedia are critiquing. These hit the bigger questions of social media and call attention some of the drawbacks of immediate gratification: everyone can say whatever they want, you are constantly being observed, we are awash and drowning in irrelevant and sometimes useless information.

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This type of art asks why we do what we do. Are we falling into a ravenous crevice full of hashtags and bite-sized stories? Are we even able to appreciate true artistic brilliance anymore? Can we analyze whatever aesthetic an artwork may provide? Maybe. But maybe not. And that’s something we, as consumers of immediate information, need to take into consideration.

Widespread Appreciation

On the flip side, in the current world, everyone knows about art. Everyone knows about artists. And the talented, engaging and just plain weird spread faster than they ever have before. The Tumblr community passes around interesting projects from little-known, grassroots artists and expands their fame, such as the “Anonymous” project by Lindsay Bottos which recently exploded on Buzzfeed.

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But this fight for attention has caused many to opt for the “go big or go home” kind of creation, as Ioannis Pappos discussed in his Huffington Post article on social media and the decline of the art market. Art is all about shock value, because we’re not shocked anymore; with graphic images flooding our Twitter feeds daily, art has to be truly extravagant to make people notice. Unless it’s really weird, really big or really shocking, it barely appears as a blip on our radar. And that, often, is at the expense of losing “talent, taste, and intellect,” according to Pappos. Art loses its meaning when its only purpose is to shock the audience. Art is about creating all emotions, not just confusion and anger. In a world awash with information, the purpose of art can be lost in the tides.

Mediums and Medias

And then there are the artists who use social media as their medium. Artist Rina Dweck changed her profile photo on Facebook every day for a year, a collection of ethereal self-portraits which found the positive in social media; using it to spread aesthetic appreciation instead of simply stalking your ex’s Instagram feed.

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This use of new technology has started to appear in all sorts of art circles: In 2012, Mexican-Canadian artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer created a project entitled “Open Air,” a public installation where viewers in Philadelphia could download an app, record voice messages, and rate other messages which were then transmitted to bright skylights in downtown which reacted in brightness and position to the tone and frequency of a person’s voice. Social media has the ability for artists to rediscover their mediums and passions, and create pieces that no one previously could have conceptualized without modern technological discoveries.

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Everyone’s a Critic

And finally, I suppose, social media has given everyone the chance to voice their opinions. This seems to be the rut most people complain about when it comes to sharing online – everyone can say something, and everyone does. Almost everyone feels as if they’re an authoritative source when it comes to discussing creativity and creations; even if they’re not necessarily as qualified as one might hope when searching for an art critic. It seems as if everyone is some sort of qualitative and quantitative source on the best types and forms of art and artistic expression, and as Phyllis Tuchman argues, it’s all about finding and following the right people in order to be informed about art (and let’s be honest, anything, really).

Nonetheless, social media gives us the chance to experience more creativity than ever before, and that offers both pros and cons to audiences that may not have been raised before. Whether we allow ourselves to drown in that tidal wave of artists or embrace it and learn about our own aesthetic appreciation styles, however, is completely up to the viewer.

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