by Ben Russo in Holland
Infection, virus, asymptomatic, remote, and assembly are continuously heard in official communications, by the media, and in our everyday dialogue, placing them among the most sought-after and fashionable words to be used at the moment. In a not so distant past, as heard in Europe and other parts of the world a century earlier, these words also play a significant role in the parallel universe of the arts. The big corporate players are out in the field, urging everything and everyone to move to an online platform, squeezing every little drop left behind by the current financial arrangement. Hiding behind and cashing in on the #stayathome trend, museums and cultural centers around the world claim to be once again open, but this time, in a new, different, structured, and thorough manner. They are trying to persuade the masses that physical institutions are simply replaceable by screens.
The fainéant, visionary, non-conformist, genius, hermit, and even the self-proclaimed local artist, run on the desire and passion for expressing their emotions and messages through a tangible and most often lasting format. They convey their feelings using a precise form and dimension needed for their message to be carried on, and sometimes understood entirely. Clearly, a screen or virtual experience will never be a replacement for some of those messages, even though the corporate art world would like us to think differently. An excellent tool for a writer or a graphic designer, but a bit flat and exceedingly modest for some of the other countless artists. The advertising dollars that once poured in the top museums from companies seeking exposure and an ethical way to launder their profits have dried up. The corporate art world is now pushing for an easy solution to this hiccup by embracing the trend of offering a museum experience from anyone’s living room. The advantages are remarkable but unilateral, leaving some of the artists in the dark. Peter Saul recently noted that “there are just too many artists,” and this is an excellent time to filter some out. Technology is leading the masses to believe that everything uploaded via the latest visual rendering app is an expression of original art, but the majority of them are just a mere algorithm of a preconfigured result.
The temporary closure of galleries, museums, and cultural centers does not imply that art, as we know it, is ending. Without any doubt, this will change some aspects of how we perceive art and those subtle emotions manifested by artists, only perceivable when physically present before a work of art. This is only temporary, but this crisis will trump several projects, put an end to a large number of careers, and halt the financial development of many prominent and grand institutions. Promoting the concept of a website as being similar to the grand halls of the top museums is just sinful. Rather than capitalizing on the current struggles and flooding the scene with advertisements, those institutions have to take a peek at the educational component and try to resist the current mindset. Those institutions have to adapt their products to the scholarly world and not to the bored audience sitting behind a screen that eventually will not be able to contribute to them. The quick buck that made some companies shine in the past will be dimmed by the incredible and crucial potential that this new tool has for other purposes. Long-distance learning, to name one. A fresh breed of talent will emerge from these times, and just like intercontinental air travel and other industries affected by these hard times, will survive and advance. Trimming the fat and producing the much-needed change for a new generation of artists is what should be happening. The weak will fall off, innovation in every field will shine, and a new set of wealth will fund it all. Giants of the sector will live on, but new ones will emerge, making these times a possible modern renaissance.
Volume 34 no 5 May / June 2020