Directional Changes in Art as a Result of Societal Changes

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DNA by Hebe Brooks, size 24×48

Human society, the same as nature, requires all its components to be in balance in order to function properly. If a major event takes place in society, all other aspects of that society are influenced and changed in search for a new balance. Art, as an expression of the human community, is highly affected by changes in other societal areas.
The biggest directional changes in artists’ ways of expression have resulted parallel or immediately after great technological innovations, revolutionary industrial procedures, and enormous changes in the values held by individuals. The invention of the movable print by the German Johann Gutenberg in 1445 and the consequent development of literature on commonly spoken language brought an increased interest in humanistic writings that precipitated a change in the arts: the Renaissance. The photographic camera, the Industrial Revolution, the automobile, the airplane, and the fascination with the precision of machines gave origin to different modern art movements depicting mechanistic compositions or exploring art beyond visual reality and into the world of dreams and the unconscious.
In essence, art was pushed to transform. Art created itself. The advent of the computer, the internet, and social media in the last thirty years has created new challenges and opportunities for the artist. The incorporation of movement, sounds, and interaction with the audience in the art work has changed the course of art. Could one then affirm the computer as the creator of a directional change in contemporary art? Being so close in time to the possible cause in the creation of a new artistic style makes it difficult to ascertain the veracity of the change, but indications lead to believe the leap to another different art movement might have been achieved. Sculptures with motion that invite public participation are common in museums of present day art. It is not unusual to find the largest concentration of art museum visitors in front of computer screens that appeal to all human senses through animation.
When taking into consideration the degree of comfort, proficiency, and enjoyment that the new generations find in the technological world of computers, it is not farfetched to affirm that we are witnessing a directional change in art as revolutionary as the change from classical canons to Impressionism and Abstract.
Many experts claim that youngsters’ minds are being reprogrammed with the extensive use of computers, and that children are developing new cognitive abilities. Keri Facer discusses some of these abilities in Computer Games and Learning and brings to attention the increase of “active versus passive, graphics first versus text first, pay-off versus patience, and fantasy versus reality.” If this research proves valid over time, art will not escape the influence and the inferred directional change in art will be a reality.

As the speed of technological inventions increase so does the speed in directional changes in art. It took eight centuries of Byzantine Art until the Renaissance emerged. Five centuries passed before Modernism took root, but only about one hundred years were required until the revolution of the computer age gripped and engaged the arts in a path to interaction.

Art, like human society, is in constant transformation. Most of this transformation is subtle and perceived better through the passage of history. At times, art receives a strong jolt from a great technological innovation or a great societal change which creates a reassessment of art. Could computers be the big jolt taking art in a different direction? Could the apparent revival of art nowadays and the multitude of styles be a rebellion against the possible directional change? Could the resurgence of hyper realistic paintings be a unconscious human need to compete with the perfection of computers?

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