I found the “First word Art / Last word Art” incredibly insightful, even after, or perhaps especially because I read it last year as a freshman. Reading it again has brought greater reflection over what I have learned in the past year and personal changes in mindset and experience.
If I were asked last year, “where do you locate your interests along this spectrum [of art as something entirely novel or art as refining whats existing]?” I most definitely would have answered “last word” art. The underlying reasons would be somewhat conflicted but would mostly have stemmed from having a very traditional fine arts background. Having honed technical skills in traditional media and aesthetics for over a decade, I took no small amount of pride in the hard earned technical skill behind my art pieces. The sort of “first word art” pieces (like Dadaism or most especially John Cage’s performance pieces) definitely grated on me. Whether it was simply jealousy or an actual ideological offense I cannot say – only that it felt that “first word art” flippantly disregarded or perhaps in some cases negated the hard earned technical skill I had spent so long striving for in an effort to achieve “last word” art.
But I’ve come to think that valuing technical skill so highly in art brings about a curious dilemma. Where is the line between artist and artisan? For the artisan, technical excellence and refinement of an established product (with a unique personal touches that still lie within the box) is what makes what they do valuable. But how much distance does that establish between them and a very complex…machine? Now with technology able to make unique one of a kind products with mass produced efficiency….where does the artisan stand?
Within that context, the performance art of John Cage could be arguably valued more highly as art than an artisan piece because, ironically, however fleeting his pieces are, the impact they have has so much more longevity. And this brings me to the crux of my rambling – I think my interests are in how much ‘art’ might effectively engage people emotionally, intellectually and aesthetically through the ages. In this sense, I have yet to to determine where exactly on that spectrum my particular interest would be.
We might aspire to make stuff of lasting importance, but when our work is technologically novel, it doesn’t always age well. Discuss
The article certainly casts an interesting light on new media arts that use novel technology as their medium. I think the differentiation between first word art and something that simply shows off new technology for technologies sake, is that the piece important is using technology as a medium – wherein the novelty of the tech is not the main focus of the piece but rather something that augments the aesthetic and poetic expression and intent behind it – doing so lends some longevity to technologically novel pieces….though it is more difficult to say when the selling point of a piece is what sort of experience it invokes within the viewer.
What are some ways in which new technologies shape culture?
Technological advances are the underlying reason to nearly every cultural difference between generation Z and generation X. Take for example something simple like emails. From a generation of paper post, emails have a structure and a formality to them. There is a brief introduction/some small talk to transition into the meat of the message whereas generation Z communicates in brief staccatos. The overworking and abuse of workers prevalent through out the gilded age was largely enabled by light bulbs – workers could now work past sundown.
An example for culture changing technology has plenty of historical precedents. Nomadic viking culture lead to greater ship craft; agricultural Rome allowed for greater architectural achievements; sedentary civilizations developed longer lasting physical record taking methods (chinese and paper), etc.