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What changes our response to art?

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I’ve attended a web-class about contemporary art and had to write an essay about it. I’ve got A, so I thought I should share my work with the world – I hate to think no one will ever read it. I don’t normally talk about art here, so maybe it’s going to be a refreshing change. Please comment if you agree or disagree with my opinion below. :)

Technological development as a factor that changes our response to art

Art, especially contemporary art, is and has always been a difficult topic when social response is taken into consideration. Although there is a list of artist whose work is widely recognized and most of the times appraised, there is also a vast amount of artists who only get recognition among some groups or among no one at all. Often some time has to go by for an artist to gain recognition too.

However, even then one cannot say all artists have to wait for their time to come. Very often artists are appraised immediately or almost immediately after their work is published. It is probable that it’s the effect of the Internet and the society of information. We know about art from the other side of the world within second and if we liked it, we can at once share it with our friends through social media. Along with the speed of seeing new art and the amount of work from around the world which end up online, also out perception of what we call „beautiful‟ or „valuable‟ in art has changed.

There are thousands of people who can sketch nicely, paint photo-like paintings or do creative things with virtually any given material. But we are no longer amazed by all of them anymore simply because they stopped being unique. What is important nowadays then, for art to get a positive response from the society? It’s a very complex issue and I believe the answer differs depending on in which place on Earth we are. There are more than seven billion people in the world and they belong to various societies with different technological development, different cultural tradition, religion etc. Therefore the response to the same piece of art won’t be exactly the same in for example Peru, as in Finland or Philippines. Even my idea about this issue may be only applicable here, in Poland.

I believe that one of the most important assets art piece had to have to be positively responded to be for very long time symmetry. General aesthetics was incredibly important, but I believe not anymore. A good view of what happened with our perception is the plastic bag example from Richard Seymour‟s TED Talk “How Beauty Feels”. He mentions a plastic bag that is my no means beautiful, or even pretty. Then it turned out this particular bag has the ability to filter river, sea or any kind of water and „produce‟ pure, drinkable water. He said that then he felt this bag to be beautiful.

What happened was he found out that an object of no particular aesthetic value is beautiful to him because of its function. Of its ability to provide clean water very quickly and of its possibilities to resolve many people’s problem with the access to drinkable water. I believe this is also what happened with art recently, or with the response to it, to be more precise. People like to see pretty images of people, places and things, but they most of the times easily forget about what they’ve seen very soon after. What takes today to become remembered for an art piece is some sort of moral.

One of the best examples to support this idea is the most well-known graffiti artist – Banksy. If we take out the whole sociological idea and look at his works like at, for instance, Leonardo da Vinci’s work, there is no comparison in beauty. Da Vinci’s works are extremely complex, very detailed and pleasant to look at. On the other hand there is Banksy’s graffiti which is quite simple, not very detailed and most of the times looks like cartoons. And yet I believe when we ask young people with who often surf in the Internet who Banksy is, there will be almost as many „yes‟ responses as to the similar question about da Vinci. Everyone who appears on social media knows his famous screaming child graffiti, or the hooligan throwing a bouquet of flowers instead of a Molotov cocktail. They are not particularly beautiful in classical context, but what makes them beautiful is their social message and influence on people.

This is the art that makes us think about various issues just like social justice, how technology transforms the society and its features, or even sometimes makes us rethink our actions. In my opinion art works today have to be memorable for us to get a response longer than until we leave the gallery. Of course a response – positive or negative – can be achieved with a picture of a butterfly, a sketch of a famous person and a painting of a sunset. What I think is important though is how long will this response last in viewer’s heads; will it make a change in their life, will it make them think? If not, then this particular piece of art can get quickly forgotten if it comes to contemporary art.

There are many art works produced every day, both by professional and amateur artists. Vast amount of it ends up online in some form, ready for people to see it, share and comment it. Yet when we think about something we saw not long ago, we first think about things that shocked us, amazed us or made us thinking. I believe this is a new way of responding to art, a way created by technological development and the speed of information. I’m looking very forward into the future and new changes in perceiving art, in responding to it and judging whether it’s good or not. We’re standing only in the beginning of the path of development in technology and luckily new artists learn quickly how to adapt to it and amaze us, shock us, and make us think.

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Author: Mizu

Master of squeezing many responsibilities into very small timespan, a fan of various TV series and films. I devour books and in my free time I make jewellery. Currently I work in a PR agency and really like it.

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