The Arts & The Internet



I’ve long thought that true creativity is not just about originality; it’s about making connections that others don’t notice. When we were kids it was hard to draw these invisible lines between people and places, objects and ideas. Very rarely someone sprang out of nowhere, fully formed – Mozart, Dickens, Van Gogh – but most of the time the young Turks were nothing of a sort; they worked long and hard to achieve success; it takes years to become an ingenue.

Enter the internet, shortcutting in a way that allows us all to make connections – whether we see them or not is another matter. But while we were thinking that space was the final frontier (space, for our little planet, is sadly all too unknowable) we discovered internal space, and through it, new ways of thinking. Suddenly, if you could imagine it, it could exist, without a huge cost outlay, just time and patience.

Let’s take three examples.

1. The Viral Video.

Christian Marclay (often mentioned here before) uses film clips of repeated actions to make his artistic points, and so do a great many non-professionals – someone recently bothered to compile every shot where a motorbike slides away from the camera, and then contrasts them with his dog sliding away in the snow in exactly the same pose. The internet makes artists of everyone, but only a few of the artworks prove appealing or are any good. Meanwhile, there’s a lot of fun to be had; the alternative versions of Hitler’s map scene from ‘Downfall’ irrevocably changed the film’s image.

Juxtaposing imagery has been with us for a hundred years kin the form of collages, but now they take on a new perspective, and have affected art. I saw an exhibition in Venice which featured  hundreds of photographs of Hollywood stars who’d played Nazi generals. It had the odd effect of making you review what you really knew about history. How much of it came from fact, how much from fiction? It was the kind of artwork which has been made possible by the viral video.

2. New Music-Visual Fusions

As the traditional music industry collapsed, felled by its own greed, it was replaced by a more fragmented digital world that created stars out of kids in bedrooms. I was a long-time fan of Pogo and DJ Zebra, both of whom mashed together sounds and chords to create new music, funded online, released as MP3s. They sampled and snipped old footage into new forms, and in Pogo’s case, used everyday sounds in the way that minimal modernist Steve Reichs used them.  Pogo also added visuals to create strange collaged tracks that recycled harmonies into beats.

Equally, new film directors have appeared because they’ve made short films using Final Cut Pro at home. Welshman Gareth Edwards went from dabbling with effects to directing Hollywood’s biggest summer blockbuster, ‘Godzilla’, virtually overnight.

This form of reverse-funding, from the computer back towards tangible formats, has also been the salvation of much writing, although it is mainly being used to restore wonderful old books to print because for new authors the digital literary equivalent has become dominated by Amazon, where you can hit bestseller status not through book quality but by endlessly lowering price – a ludicrous state of affairs.

3. Traditional Musicians

Maria Schneider is a jazz composer whose superbly elegant works became funded by fans online. Such was her success that she was the first person to win a grammy solely through online distribution of her music. She tours with her big band, and has been a huge supporter of crowdfunding, which has given her the kind of status that artists once only received through companies like Deutsche Grammaphon. Talent found a way out through digital availability.

In the future we will look back at what we’ve come to regard as traditional artists, writers and musicians and not see how their work was distributed – we’ll only see and hear and remember the work itself. The internet will have become an invisible instigator, a distribution tool – and if companies try to dominate artists again their power will be reduced by sheer weight of numbers.

2 comments on “The Arts & The Internet”

  1. Dan Terrell says:

    Is Godzilla the highest grossing worldwide summer hit so far? It’s early days yet and it looks like at least three other U.S. films have surpassed it in total take. Although, they will have been running a bit longer. It sort of looks to me like a three-week wonder, but who knows?
    I haven’t heard a lot of buzz other than from the youngsters, who wouldn’t have seen the stop-motion originals.
    Frankly, I think I’d miss the young Raymond Burr standing off to the side..

  2. Iain Triffitt says:

    The original Godzillas weren’t stop motion – they were plain old man in a suit.

    I’m torn on the new Godzilla film – Gareth Edwards is obviously a gifted director (there are some beautiful shots in there) but I’m not sure about the new Godzilla (which seemed more based on the 90s Gamera films.)

    I’ve found some amazing performers on Youtube – some of which seem to have a competition to boost their number of views (due to advertising revenue, I suspect.) The mash-ups and supercuts are also quite extraordinary though we seem to be moving back to the old arts funding model of direct patronage (especially with sites such as Kickstarter and Pozible.)

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