Tuesday, March 15, 2011

On Art, Culture, and the Modern World

Last week I didn't update my blog with any new works, and I won't be posting anything this week as well.  I was in Berlin last week, and this week I have a lot of school work to catch up on.

Lately I have been thinking about what culture is in the 21st century.  I have heard many criticisms from the older generation that today's culture is lazy, stagnated, lacking originality, and proletarian.  I don't think this is uncommon; one could easily find criticisms in the transitions between each epoch in cultural development.  However, the criticism does raise an interesting and rather hard to answer question: what does the current generation have to offer?

Today's culture is viral and fleeting.  We have reduced Warhol's infamous fifteen minutes of fame into an even shorter-lived fifteen seconds.  There is an immense difficulty in defining trends in the cultural dialogue, because the cultural conversation changes so often. 

This, in itself, is an indication of who we are as creative people.  The information age necessitates rapid development, incessant change, and adaptibility.  This ADD, frenetic pace of life has deeply gouged our cultural landscape.  With the advent of the internet, blogging, YouTube, and other services, people hastily navigate from site to site, video to video, with an insatiable appetite to consume as much as possible in as little time as possible.

The genuinely gifted must now compete with the short attention span of a population spending their time watching thirty second videos of cats meowing, reading for breadth rather than depth, and viewing art on buildings and objects on their hurried commute.  This hyper-caffeinated environment has given rise to art forms such as Twitter poetry, micro-fiction, short YouTube films, found art, graffiti, and a reverence for one-liners over monologues. 

Adding another layer on this manic environment is the rise of social media.  The share button has become ubiquitous across internet webpages to the point that not having it makes one's ditigal work irrelevant.  To have something go viral is the standard of success. 

Underlying the viral phenonmenon is the most fascinating complexity of modern culture.  Through sharing, recommending, retweeting, etc, the consumer becomes the creator.  By posting a link, video, or picture to one's Facebook wall, the work is recontextualized by its surroundings.  The Facebook wall or blog itself becomes a defining statement about its user as well as providing an altered context for those who view the shared links based on their preconceived notions of the original user's prejudices, habits, and personality.  Taken as a whole, these accounts redefine the individual and the art.  Artistic collaboration through shared work or commenting from consumers also blurs the lines of what it means to be the creator, leading to an era where the art itself is more important than the artist.

It is through this viral, collaborative, and open environment that the consumer becomes something more.  He is not only a purveyor of art and culture, supplying it through his online accounts, but also a creator who recontextualizes works based on his biases and preferences.  Since so much of today's cultural trends are intended to be consumed quickly, walls and blogs become megalithic musuems of individual preference. 

That's enough for now.  I have other work to do.  I have a feeling I'll be coming back to this topic more often, and hopefully will be able to reorganize and clarify many of the things I've already said.  Later everyone.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


I am the brooding wind
that rages obstinately
at a stained glass window,
using all my might to
fracture, disfigure, deform
anything that is beautiful.

I am the shallow current
that flows swiftly over ankles,
an inviting path across the river
that submerges those enticed
in waters just deep enough
to drown the incautious.

I am the fake, silk roses
stolen from a grave,
recycled for a valentine
given to someone
not worthy of something organic
or the cost of its life.

I was brokenhearted,
a tempest on the sea,
an internal, scathing
mix of fear and hatred
and pity and self-loathing.

Now my hands are folded,
my face is serene,
my body placid
and my neck flaccid.
I have become stagnation.
I am resignation.

A Cynic's Lament

Every brick I lay upon this wall,
this monument to stupidity,
this Colossus of Ignorance,
is well laid.

I have sewn my eyes shut
and sprinted backwards;
i have plugged my ears
and screamed for help.

As I gaze upon myself,
I decry vanity;
Before each dessert,
I damn the gluttons.

So here I build,
brick by memory by brick,
my fortress of misanthropy,
a refuge of cynicism.

On each brick is your name;
Your breath fills the air,
exhaled words
hiding in the cobwebs.

Though I am alone,
you are always present.
Your picture is the sand in my canteen
when I drink to parch my thirst.

And the cost?
I have paid dearly.
I paid with love given
that I could never return.