I had an interesting and somewhat angering encounter at this past CPAW, and I’d like to tell you the story to preface the argument that proceeds...
I was standing in one of the galleries and overheard a young guy mention one of my pieces. This photograph is of a masked woman standing flush towards the lens with her arms expended outward, palms facing the ceiling. Streaming from her palms are bolts of lighting, implying that she holds the power of her own reality. The image can be viewed HERE.
“Is this supposed to be Storm from X-men?”
“No,” I replied, “I didn’t even think of that when I created it.”
“Oh, it’d be a lot cooler if it was!”
“Arguable,” I replied.
“How much would you charge me if I were to commission you to invert the negative and make it Storm? ACTUALLY... I can do it myself!”
He grabbed his phone out of his pocket, chose an app, and snapped the picture eagerly showing me the screen.
“Look! I am an artist now!”
Somewhat fuming, I practiced the self restraint and impulse control I have been working on for the last 15 years of my life, and walked away. Due to my position in the organization, the fact that this guy was obviously drunk and had this self righteous disrespect for art, artists and their intellectual property, I felt as though the best reaction was no reaction at all. Instead, He will just not be invited back and be the subject of an in-depth intellectual debate. Let’s turn ignorance into intellect.
The debate of art vs. technology is a vast one with many nooks and crannies of unclear lines and inevitably starts with the question of ‘what makes art?’ Is it simply a mode of expression? Is something art when value is placed upon it? Or when it demands a reaction from it’s viewers or elicits and emotional response? Is it simply something tangible that stemmed from a concept? My answer is YES. This hands down YES seems hazy when any Insta-app using-gramer is then able to claim they are an artist when the technical mastering is not at play. Has technology made it too easy on some of us, yet created a vat of quicksand for the rest?
I personally, am one that uses technology as a TOOL in my creating. Being that I focus on the digital medium, the use of technology has given me the ability to create what I see in my head. To make the images that stem from my imagination, but are rooted in reality, become a viewable and tangible piece of art. That being said, I am a supporter of how accessible technology has become, but I cannot then discount the hundreds of hours I have spent learning, experimenting and beginning to perfect the technology that I choose to employ. Ultimately, I am a digital baby who has chosen to combine the art of photography and the new digital mediums as the foundation of my creation. Should that be discounted with the phrase, “it’s JUST photoshopped! I can do it too... with my phone!” Or is it the fault of these self righteous, narcissistic people who think, “if you can do it, I can do it better...with my phone!”
I am absolutely fascinated by the use of technology within art. In the late 1960s a non-profit organization called Experiments In Art And Technology (E.A.T.) surfaced and made an enormous impact on the art scene by combining the efforts of 10 New York based artists and 30 engineers from the Bell Telephone Laboratories to collaborate in visual art, performance and music. They incorporated new technologies of the time like video projection, wireless sound transmission and Doppler sonar as a foreshadow to the future relationship of art and technology and indirectly launched the careers of artists like composer John Cage, Andy Warhol, and dancer Merce Cunningham. We all see the constant links between art and technology, and whether we independently like it or not, we HAVE to accept them.
At one point in history, the color blue was a ground breaking technology. It was a near impossible pigment to obtain. Ultramarine could only be made using lapis, a rare semi precious stone that most commoners, not to mention starving artists, could not afford. When artificial pigments were introduced into the art scene, artists were faced with literally, a whole new palette of choices. This has happened countless times in the history of art, and is now happening once again.
Back to Storm-lover for a second. There is another point to raise when using someone else’s artwork as the base of your own. We, as artists, use what we have seen and experienced as inspiration. Images are constantly floating by and through us which we build off of when creating. When looking at the art world, I can’t help but see a never ending city constructed from building blocks: each block, or each creation, using the one before it as its foundation. Inevitably, art has started somewhere and grown. This is undeniable.
What we see more and more these days is that every song has a remix, stock footage is manipulated to compile films without the film maker ever picking up a camera, and books are becoming collages, like David Shield’s “Reality Hunger,” novels are being created using paragraph by paragraph other authors words. What these few examples have in common is, rather than using the building block before yours as inspiration and motivation yet constructing your own individual block as an addition to the city, people seem to be taking and imprinting the previous block in a collaborative way. Which ultimately then invites for that block to be imprinted again upon the imprint, then again upon the imprint, and again. I read an article that coined this concept the WIKI- State. Wikipedia has become a main platform for knowledge, yet it is able to constantly change with anyone’s desire. So how do we know that what we are reading is true? We don’t. When art is taken from one person’s perspective and creation, yet transformed into a platform for people other than the creator to manipulate and call their own, How do we know what is true with the purity of intent?
So Storm-lover, I ask you: Do you want your voice to be heard and added to the city that is our art history? Or are you content with the constant rebrand, eagerly, desperately trying to mark some territory of your own?