How shocked are you?

Thursday 14 June 2007 8 responses

"Cixi" (portrait - Mike Fone)
It must have been in the later Seventies that underground sociologist Alvin Toffler wrote his best seller Future Shock. He had garnered a whole lot of facts to support his idea that change was going to happen so fast and furious it would be all but impossible for folks to keep up. This change was going to impose previously unknown stress, and he predicted major problems to the individual psyche and society as a whole.

Tofler’s first prediction has been absolutely correct. Rapid advances in technology mean it is hard for people in many good jobs to ever stop learning. Those people who do have the good jobs also have the problem of insecurity as much as anybody else. Even public bodies such as Social Welfare often only offer short-term contracts to new employees. And need we point out that getting to work at all in a big city is a major stress problem.

However, the second part of his prediction seems to have overlooked the adaptation abilities of mankind. People seem to have ways of dealing with these problems. Change has become a way of life and some people seem to welcome it as refreshing in some ways. Why not go for another job in three years then uproot and move to another location.

Change for the corporate companies means growth and new markets, plus a lot of stress for those who have to create them. For the rest of us it means being at the end of massive marketing drives, being told what we have to buy, need and should want to make us feel better. And since nothing much we buy is going to last long, shopping has become a major item. So part of the marketing hype is about getting us to change our likes and dislikes. It’s about selling dreams, and the technology is making so much possible. Do I really need to replace my 4 year old computer? Of course I don’t, it’s quite fast enough, but sooner than later the new demands of the software force me into it. I end up buying what four years ago would have been a massive workstation to do my typing. So, I can use it as my family entertainment centre, use the Internet for the shopping and never leave the house again. I can even do my work at home it’s less stress. It’s called cocooning. Some people are telling us that’s the way our society is heading. Marketing people are not ignoring this trend.

Have we bought the dreams? I think of those people who get truly distressed when their favourite soap character has to die, because they’ve been written out of the programme, those who use credit to buy the car of their dreams. It’s live now and pay later all the way.

But I’m asking myself, have we really adapted to all of this change, or just found ways to avoid the consequences in the short term. Are their ways we have decided to live in a world of dreams made possible by the advanced technology of our age and has the price yet to be paid?

I’m sure these things have been talked about many times, but my question is how should artists face this issue. Nice paintings for the home have long been the backbone of the art world and no doubt will continue to be so. Artists have to make a living. However, we could say this work is only a kind of first aid for the ills of society. Something more is needed. We can all enjoy a trip to dream-world at times, and in some societies it’s thought to be a necessity. If it help us to live with day to day realities, then why not. Well, maybe sometimes it doesn’t.

Another option is carry on dishing out the shock, as if we haven’t had enough already. Some of the big movers in today’s art world can’t get it to us fast enough. If it’s destructive that’s just too bad, it is often exciting.

Should art have an answer at all? Should artists be expected to provide an answer for the ills of society? It’s a big call, if that is so. Is it something, which local, relatively unknown painters can begin to address? If it were a truly important issue, then would it not require a great artist to produce important art? I think there are a lot of artists who just never got to be in the right place at the right time, and a lot of others who never got hold of a vision. There is plenty of potential; artists of sufficient merit, just missing greatness by a margin.

Mike Fone

8 responses: to “ How shocked are you? so far...

  • Anonymous 14.6.07

    Kim I love your site! Stumbled too! I hope that will bring you a lot of traffic. ;)



  • Kim 14.6.07

    thanks Mihaela
    I cannot take the credit as it is the quality of the writers and their works that make the site what it is...thanks for the stumble too !!!
    have a great day....

  • Kim 14.6.07

    hi Mikey
    this is another thought provoking article....when I read this I had to agree that some of the art we see is created to shock the public...I think the perfect example for me was Dobell's Portrait in the Archibald Prize...this made Dobell a household name and yet he suffered a complete nervous breakdown when the gallery dragged him through one of the biggest court cases in Australian art history...
    art critics told the public not to view the portrait...and warned pregnant women to stay away because it was so shocking....
    all in all it was one of Dobell's best portraits...but was it worth it especially when his health suffered so you think that "art" can kill an artist?

  • Anonymous 14.6.07

    Well, yes. But you manage the site and you make it famous through blogging to fame and MyBlogLog, etc. Your efforts should be rewarded too!

    This is a great team effort that deserves recognition. :)


  • Kim 14.6.07

    thanks Mig....
    for your really inspiring comments.... for a minute there I thought you were answering my question 'do you think that "art" can kill an artist?'.....

  • Mikey 15.6.07

    Kim, I think there is a way in which we have to pay a price for creativity. That could be a cause for a lot of discussion. Also artists do seem to be outsiders living on the margins of society. Creatives are people with original thoughts which simply don't belong to the mainstream.

    Thinking of artists who want to shock the the Chapman brothers come immediately to mind. These days it seems that even they are having a hard time being able to shock any longer.

    I can't think of any artists who actually died because of their art offhand. Can art be used to kill a society, or will it bring life?


  • Kim 15.6.07

    hi Mikey
    yes the Chapman Brothers are very clever.and terribly eccentric..
    good art is going to magnify society whether it be positive or negative...sort of a visual record ...I think a lot of art can be obsessive....and self serving...I think that can be seen in the nature of the artist....especially because a lot do live outside the square....hard question to answer....can art kill a society...I think it depends on the society/community...some nurture artists...others do the opposite......

  • Mikey 16.6.07

    Can art kill society? I suppose the answer will depend on your definition of kill. Was the everything is dead movement an attempt to kill off a lot of things, and if it was then was it so that the new might take its place. What did take its place in the short term was Punk. That might be seen as good fun, but as a mainstream culture! So the we have so much Conceptual Art, which again seems to me as removing much of the old. We might want to say yes this is the time for something completely new without reference to the old things. There is a need for a completly new paradigm. For the last so many decades the new has been somewhat amorphous. Do we need a new metanarrative or foundational story? The alternative has to be allow things to carry on as they are going, a society without roots or solid ground underneath. Does that offer the kind of security necessary for a stable society.