Everyone talks about ‘polarization’. Politics, income, culture. It has struck me recently how this also applies to art. There are super-detailed pieces of art which have become common-place. Video games, movies, etc. And these are largely computer generated (humans still supervise.) But art which is strictly ‘human’, ie. generated in real-time by real people, has become more simple. As the machines advance, we withdraw.
I have started thinking that, in a sense, we’ve unconsciously given up. Other than guys like Chuck Close, the idea of humans doing extremely detailed and complex contrivances is going buh bye.
I’ll grant you that there are plenty of stunt-performers. Guys who are like cirque du soleil contortionists. Performing ‘how does he do that finger-busting feats. Unfortunately, most of these are, forgive me, circus feats—amazing to watch once. Not necessarily what you wanna listen to for depth.
You can say that art is supposed to reflect the times. But if artists like Chuck Close (who admits he is imitating a machine) are what’s happening, what does that say about us? And forget Philip Glass and the whole ‘minimalist’ school. Repetition is just a cover. Which is why it’s called minimalism. A four note phrase repeated 1,000 times is still just a four note phrase—no matter how many instruments it gets passed around in the orchestra.
The really amazing ‘trend’ (which is no longer a trend since it’s become normative) are all the flavours of ‘Americana’. If you have an appetite for simplicity you can’t do better than a guy with his geetar. But what used to be considered fun, soulful, but unpretentious music… you know ‘folk’ music is now considered ‘fine art’. I regularly hear people talk about ‘Dylan’ or Cole Porter and Bach together in one sentence. With all due respect, Puh-leeze. I submit that the popular song book didn’t suddenly elevate to the level of St. Matthew’s Passion.
Rather, something in our generation just didn’t rise to the occasion and leave behind something more than 32 bars.
No, art these days, musical, visual is all about ‘simple’. Simple is ‘human’. Anything too complex is either declassé or is best executed by a machine.