Wednesday, April 13, 2011

What is the role of the artist in modern times?

Is the role of the artist to be the person who slows down time, and peers deeply into the fleeting moments of a world that keeps spinning faster and faster? An artist like this might spend months painting a bowl of fruit. When asked what relevancy it has, the artist might say that the relevancy is simply that we must slow down and consider it. He might say that despite the acceleration of much of modern life, that we are (as human beings) still based on a slower time frame. Man has technology, but he does not become technology. Man lives in an accelerated world, but that does not mean he has accelerated soul. We cannot breath any faster, or digest food any more rapidly... we still need eight hours of sleep, etc.  This "slowing down" approach is meditative in nature. It's a meditation on the simple things in life, but above all, a mediation on objects.

The opposite of this would be the artist who accepts the modern world for what it is. This artist accepts the accelerated and abstracted nature of the modern world, and works with it to find perspective, or explanation,or something. Instead of painting a bowl of fruit, he might strive to give representation to a broader notion of what that bowl of fruit represents. Perhaps it represents agriculture, or abundance, or any number of other associations. Perhaps this type of artist wouldn't even have any association with that bowl of fruit. He might simply see it as just another collection of objects of no real significance, other than that of a still life composition for the meditation artist.

This type of artist is might feel the need to move beyond simple objects, since simple objects don't correspond to the complexity and speed of the modern world. Perhaps no object could. Even something as high-tech as brand new rocketship probably wouldn't be subject matter for this type of artist, since the time required to focus on "any one thing" detracts that artist from the flux and change that he tries to capture. What's real about the modern world aren't the people or things in it, but on the relationships between those things, and how they change over time. To show relationship and change is to show the world condensed to a canvas size, and to allow the viewer to gain perspective, if they even want perspective.

How does one make images that depict relations and change? Probably more abstractly than a bowl of fruit. This type of artist meditates not on objects, but on relationships and change... it's a different agenda, more abstract mentally, and probably more abstract visually.

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