Schrödinger's Facebook Unfriending, Art and Technology
As I was preparing my thoughts on what to say to get you to buy my Metal Signs based on my oil paintings and messed with through my computer, I thought about the role technology plays in my art. Is using computers somehow cheating? Given time I could rationalize using specific references of similar applications in art history. But there is no rule to be broken. Does it make it low-art? To me that ambiguous bar can only be reached by selling my oil paintings on Ebay.
This metal image is rife with ephemera to make you think of Schrödinger and his famous probably-dead-cat that was possibly alive. Some might refer to this as a zombie-cat. But before we go running head along willie-nillie into Schrödinger's thought experiment in some seemingly random fashion, I have some thoughts about art and technology.
Art and technology have seemed to mirror one another, and it's little wonder. This will make some flat-earther's and climate change deniers all pissy, but the arts and sciences are inextricably joined together by humanity's age-old need for expression. So if were an oil painter in the 15th century, the technology was to grind your pigments using a muller and a poorly fed apprentice in indentured servitude. After painting something, some wealthy aristocrats or even a Cardinal might buy your work. If it was too political or offensive in some way you might get burned at the stake and thrown onto their heap of poets or scientists and possibly unfriended on Facebook.
It’s much the same in today. You drag your hiney down to Blick's for a tube of their blackest paint to make art with. You try to get your work into some space other than your cousin's coffee shop; finally you get into a show at a legitimate gallery. There your work may be bought by some wealthy bureaucrats or even a tech giant. But, if your work is not political enough or no one is offended you are thrown into the massive black obscurity of poets, scientists, and artists who hold down day jobs to make ends meet, moreover you are summarily unfriended on Facebook. This explains the alarming proliferation of angst ridden street art and oil paintings of landscapes and ducks in your local Department of Motor Vehicles.
Certainly you can grind your own pigment if you want to. Sinopia has all the materials to construct a painting identical in craftsmanship to an actual 15th century painting, and you'll wish you had a poorly fed apprentice in indentured servitude too. It’s quite a lot of work, and you still have to clean your own brushes and stretch your own canvas. It's a good schtick, and you may sell some pieces, but if you’re really intent on suffering for your art, then there dark places you can show. Flea bitten backwater places around the globe and America’s beltway, there will always be those offended by just about any idea, other than their own, that you might even get to make the final sacrifice for your art. You were around you could expect a posthumous unfriended on Facebook.
But technology has grown and is exponentially growing as are the arts; I could comment on the sciences here but I'm saving that up for closing remarks on Schrödinger cats. But as the arts go, I imagine that it's as confusing for us today as it was for the realist painters when the photographers came along and pulled the rug from out from under their collective feet as though it were just a prank. It wasn't. To this day realist painters are still suspicious of photographers believing that they can steal their souls with their cameras.
Notwithstanding the advances in technology, making art is still making art. On the one hand you could be an artist on Team-Bruckheimer making a soon to be forgotten state-of-the-art blockbuster filled with so many post production lens flares as to induce seizures. On the other hand, you could be a humble caveman on Team-Lascaux smearing plebian feces and berries on a dark cave wall. Like Bruckhiemer, their work will not be seen at the Cannes Film Festival either, but Cavemen everywhere will be delighted to know that their art holds up through the long centuries. People still stand in line paying money to see the their paintings at Lascaux, putting even 'Citizen Kane' to shame.
Fortunately, we are over that very confusing adolescent post-modern phase where it was difficult to even identify what is art. I recall going to the MOMA and feeling trepidation and uncertainty not knowing if the water fountain was actually part of the exhibition. I drank anyway and the water was just the same. In this ‘post-post-modern’ world we're far less confused; proof of this is the 'alternate truth' in politics, which is similar to ‘alternate dimensions’ in science but requires far less math. Now everyone's opinion can be heard if you chose which camp you’ll be in, there you will be inoculated into what is real-art and what is fake-art.
For today's artist, technology breaks any would-be rules. If you are making art today there are nothing saying you can't stack rocks, be part of the cadaver school of fine art, paint Jesus with your own blood, organize a Flash Mob to be carried out by strangers (which is traumatizing for everyone concerned and is perilously close to terrorism), or maybe you'll create a piece of music on your iPad that is so impossible to play that you have to hire Steve Vai to as a stunt guitarist. Anything you can conceive of is fair game because everything is derivative od something else. There are no rules, ‘anarchy is loosed upon the world’.
And this extends to the rest of our world, populated by the disinterested, the jaded and those unable to create, armed having live ammo, willing to fight, kill and die over, so far, about anything, leaving the rest of us to saying, “Holy Shit!” But here we are. Some reasoning this freedom from rules was foist upon us, some that it was secured with blood and guts on a nameless beach; others say it was the gradual erosion of their personal liberty. There are theories to numerous to count.
I haven’t forgotten about Schrödinger's theory and his famous thought experiment. Lets just say, as thought experiments go, its similar to, but a few steps beyond the old chestnut about still being able to hear trees fall when you aren't there. Schrödinger's is much more imaginative. It involves radioactive isotopes, a Geiger Counter, poison and a Zombie cat. I’m sure you get the picture, but hey, that’s the exciting world of particle physics.
After winning the Nobel Prize for Physics, Schrödinger went on to argue that the cat was technically alive, but PETA found his alleged thoughts about the mistreatment of animals horrific and summarily unfriending him on Facebook.