Monday, June 1, 2009

Full Screen Infothesia

Somehow the idea of an “endgame” essay about art seems to hearken back to the heydey of the eighties. Yet it seems that for whatever reason, we should perhaps be thinking about the implications of technology, information creation and dissemination, and the ubiquitous resolution of the 72 dpi image. It is as if apart from the impossibility of actually experiencing most works, I think there may be an “infothesia” happening. What I mean by the term is the idea that not only is the experience of art becoming more and more difficult as it becomes both more globalized and more fragmentary, but there is a belief that is exactly the opposite of the one proposed in Museum Without Walls.

Perhaps we are now at the edge of an abyss in which the experience of art is deemed to be as valuable whether experienced personally or digitally. The stigma of the reproduced image has, in a generation, been replaced by the expectation that this is precisely how one will see a work.

It is as if the expectation that our experiences will be compressed – MP3 files replace .WAVs, more information gets squeezed onto a personal media player of whatever type, and somehow that smaller and smaller image, that slightly altered audio experience, suddenly becomes the norm.

This is not to suggest in any way that this is necessarily problematic. When the cover of the New Yorker magazine can be created entirely on an iPhone, or when a series of squelchy, glitchy chords can transform into a genre of music – glitchcore, anyone? – then what both creators and critics must understand is that the baseline experience just simply isn’t the same. It’s simply the result of pressing the “full screen” button.

So what does this necessarily mean? I wrote recently about a pheonomenon I had termed “microsaturation”, and I think perhaps “infothesia” is its necessary outcome. Artists of all types will have to struggle against this perception. When the entirely of your visual experiences come from a Nintendo DS or an iPod Touch in landscape mode, your expectations simply must be different.

One of the great experiences in life could be the transcendental experiences of viewing a painting. But maybe, just maybe, that same image, enlarged, pixellated, transformed, might also be transcendental too.

Apologists can argue all they like about the death of art, about its ends and its implications. Maybe, instead, we should be talking about the death of the medium with a nostalgic wave to its demise.

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