iPod to blame for decline of artistic sense?

June 18, 2007 at 3:00 am 2 comments

The Sydney Morning Herald carried a great piece the other day about the UK artist, David Hockney, 70 years, who points the finger of blame at the iPod for a decline in visual awareness and appreciation. Now, I love my iPod. I have a nano in hot pink (of course!) for those frivolous moments and a new 80GB iPod in sleek, stylish black for when you want to be seen to be serious:)-

But blaming my beloved iPod for the contemporary state of art and painting in a society that is more obsessed with celebrity is maybe going a tad too far. However, let’s look at what Hockney has to say. “We are not in a very visual age,” he says. “I think it’s all about sound. People plug in their ears and don’t look much, whereas for me my eyes are the biggest pleasure. You notice that on buses. People don’t look out of the window; they are plugged in and listening to something. I think we are not in a very visual age and it’s producing badly dressed people. They have no interest in mass or line or things like that.” So he’s saying we look but do not see; that we’re separated from our immediate surroundings.

Hockney believes we’re in a “fallow period” of painting, which has been caused by the rise of the iPod; the decision to end drawing classes in most art schools; and a lack of study of the old masters. People have turned off art in other words.

Now, certainly the rise of so-called ‘shock art’ is very different from a serene Turner painting or the pastel wash of a Monet. British artist Mark McGowan, for example, recently roasted Queen Elizabeth’s favourite canine breed: a corgi. I think I read somewhere the corgi meat was made into a kebab. And this was in protest against a royal fox hunt. Recently, we’ve also seen British artist, Damien Hirst, unveil a provocative (and I thought beautiful) $98 million sparkling diamond skull. The skull, cast from a 35-year-old 18th-century European male, is encrusted with 8,601 diamonds, including a large pink diamond in the centre of its forehead. Of his work, Hirst said: “It shows we are not going to live for ever. But it also has a feeling of victory over death,” and he was inspired by similarly bejeweled Aztec skulls. The teeth in the skull are real because the artist felt it “..very important to put the real teeth back. Like the animals in formaldehyde you have got an actual animal in there. It is not a representation.”

Now, scoffing a corgi is a questionable piece of performance art I think; but the diamond skull I get. And whilst I listen to my iPod on the train, I always stare out the window as I love to see the varied colours and textures flashing across the landscape. The music seems to merge with the vision.

So is Hockney just getting a bit long in the tooth and this is a generational-gap opinion or has technology always informed art? Let’s take the architect – a practitioner of a grand art form. Prior to Computer Assisted Drafting or CAD, architects painstakingly sketched their ideas on paper and the pencil was the brain’s expression. The architect became immersed in a visual world; sensed proportions; manipulated shapes and textures; fussed over composition (my husband’s an architect whose favourite comment about a structure he likes is “..this is a collision of geometries”). Then CAD (technology) came along, which some architects felt resulted in design being at arm’s length with the artist engaging with a mouse and software rather than with the eye and the senses.

But look at the stunning work of my favourite architect, Frank Gehry. The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain was designed by Gehry in 1997. The voluptuousness and curving complexity of this building could only be achieved by computer design tools, many of which Gehry and his team developed. The museum is a product of this architect’s innovative engagement with technology. Without CAD, could Gehry have produced a curving marvel of a structure that appears to dance with the light it catches? (if you’ve seen the building, you will appreciate what I mean by the light). Gehry has gone on to design contemporary jewellery using a variety of materials – pernambuco wood; black gold; cocholong stone – and using various motifs such as fish and orchids. This is an artist who engages with technology to produce a new form of art, whether it be a building or an elegant earring.

Art is an expression of society; a commentary on society. If this is a reasonable premise, then technology (iPod, CAD etc) enables us to comment on the state of society. Whilst Hockney pines for the likes of Turner, a theory suggests that Renaissance painters experimented with concave mirrors to project an inverted image that was then traced. Georges de la Tour’s 1645 work, Christ in the Carpenter’s Studio, was examined in evidence of this theory.

The use of technology in art enables artists to discover new possibilities. So why couldn’t the iPod influence art? In fact, the iconic music player has inspired a 23-storey residential tower in Dubai, designed by Hong-Kong based architectural firm James Law Cybertecture International. The building will be called the iPad (cute!) and here’s a photo of a scale model.

And then there’s abstract nano iPod posters, which to me is a piece of art; and there’s this great sketch of someone listening to an iPod on the London Underground; not to mention the seriously clever pop culture iPod advertising campaigns featuring dark silhouetted characters against a 1960s-style psychedelic background. Now THAT’s art!

What do ThinkingShift readers think? Is Hockney right – have we lost our visual sense – or should we just send him an iPod? I can’t do much about his comment on how badly people dress these days – some people just don’t have any sense of style – and the iPod can’t be blamed for this!

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Entry filed under: Architecture, Art, iPod, Reflections, Society.

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. clive  |  June 18, 2007 at 9:27 am

    I suggest you posting to sites like irintech.com rather than reddit.
    reddit.com requires direct link to the source

    Reply
  • 2. thinkingshift  |  June 18, 2007 at 9:33 am

    okay thx for the tip Clive!
    Kim

    Reply

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