The Post-Industrial Era in which we live in now is characterized by the extraordinary rate in development of technology. In sixty years we have managed to completely redesign every aspect of our lives in a way in which we allow technology to do most of the work. Whether we like it or not technology will keep evolving, and as it evolves it will impact aspects of society differently. The evolution of technology has had a very negative impact on artistic values in society and in aesthetics. In his essay “The Art of Collecting Lightbulbs,” Kimmelman exposes characteristics and qualities contained in art making.
As Richard Restak explains in his essay “Attention Deficit: The Brain syndrome of Our Era,” Technology serves not only as an ally but also as a distraction from our daily activities. As a distraction it also serves as an escape from peoples daily routines, a place formerly occupied by art. Technology also facilitates the process of critical thinking and inhibits creative imagination, this turns out to be gravely detrimental to artistic development. As Technology distracts more people it will take away from the small group of people who are actually passionate about art.
Technology now provides an escape from reality to those who need it. This niche was formerly occupied by art. Before Post-Industrial times people would rely on art to release their thoughts, whether it was on a canvas or a sheet of music. Modernly it is much easier to watch TV, play video games, or browse the web, than to set up a canvas to paint. The ease that technology brings with it makes our brains lazy. More often than not we chose to do those activities, which require less energy. This generally wouldn’t be a problem if the issue was choosing the elevator over the stairs, but when it begins influencing the activities we chose to do as a pastime, energy/thought intensive activities, such as art, will suffer. As stated by Restak, “ In our contemporary society speed is the standard applied to almost everything that we do.”(339)
This turns out to be very true when analyzed using a quote by David Shenk used by Restak. “ We often feel life going by much faster than we wish, as we are carried forward from meeting to meeting, call to call, errand to errand. We have less time to ourselves and we are expected to improve our performance and output year after year.”(337) With this type of pressure we are not to blame for wanting to take the easy way out, but technology is. As we find lest time for ourselves, we find less time to release our, already hindered, creative thoughts in the form of art. Undoubtedly, if the dentist from Kimmelman’s essay lived in today’s world he would not have half of the time he had in his days to collect light bulbs. That is because I took an extraordinary deal of dedication, and most importantly, attention for him to collect over 75,000 light bulbs (217).
Before it affects the time that we actually have to conduct artistic activities, technology already thwarts our ability to think creatively. As Restak quotes “The clutter, noise, and constant barrage of information that surround us daily contribute to the hectic pace of our modern lives, in which it is often difficult simply to remain mindful in the moment” (336). Being flooded with imagery, sound and text messages, our brain has to divide its attention to respond to all of these simultaneously. “Our brain literally changes its organization and functioning to accommodate the abundance of stimulation forced on it by the modern world” (Restak 332). So that even if we do have time for art our mind is divided and not able to think creatively. Hugh Alfred Hicks shares a story with Michael Kimmelman in which he was in Paris at a metro station and spotted a tungsten light bulb from the 1920s and took it for his collection (Kimmelman 217).
It would be much more difficult for him to spot the same light bulb in a metro station in Paris today, as he would be bombarded by images, live changing screens with times, and advertising. His thoughts about his collection would likely the last thoughts in his mind. Creative thinking is on a downhill spiral. With the Internet we don’t have to wonder about anything anymore. Long gone are the days where we would have to imagine what the Great Wall of China looks like. We no longer have to yearn for answers with passion and fulfill a newly carved void in our minds; all we have to do now is Google images: “Great Wall of China.” This instant gratification (although convenient) overwhelms our ability to imagine. Our brains are lazy and after years of instantly answering our own questions, we become unable to create pictures in our head. This turns out to be harmful to creating art, as the first ingredient for art making is creativity.
Not only is creative thinking decreasing due to technology, so is the actual population of artists. Not modern artists (as in graphic designers etc.) but classical artists. Technology provides us a virtual reality in which classical art is not involved. Although this is seen by most as the evolution of art, it is actually the demise of classical art. The wonderment of impressionist or French realist art has become a rarity. In the modern world we have not time or enough attention span to concentrate on such elaborate pieces. This is partly due to a phenomenon described by Restak, “The most widespread consequential speed-up of our time is the onrush in images- the speed at which they zip through the world, the speed at which they give way to more of the same, the tempo at which they move”(339).
This seemingly never ending onrush of imagery takes away from our ability to sit still and analyze one single image. Since we are accustomed to quick changes in images and visual stimuli, we lack the patience to appreciate classical art pieces. A quote used by Restak of Blaise Pascal provides a good illustration of why this art is on the decline. “Most of the evils in life arise from a man’s being unable to sit still in a room”(334). As if we weren’t already disperse with all the technology that we carry around, being worried about our texts and tweets, our thoughts are also dispersed, this allows only for quick less elaborate imagery to get through to us.
Since our brains are lazy and take the path of least resistance, most classical forms of Art cannot fill that niche. There are very few people left who can actually appreciate 40 minute long Mozart concertos. The radio now plays 4 minute longs songs and actually speeds them up so that they are shorter. Restak explains that our lack of attention has actually become somewhat normal. “Many personality characteristics we formerly labeled as dysfunctional, such as hyperactivity, impulsiveness and easy distractibility, are now almost norm”(335). In a world where these attributes are norm there is no room for overly detailed portraits or grand escalating music pieces. Our brains are rewired for instant gratification, a gratification seldom found in classical art.
As technology helps our society advance to create a more highly efficient less wasteful machine, we can expect leisurely activities to suffer, mainly art. Technology makes it so that we are in more than two places at once whether we like it or not. This creates a split of thoughts in our brains. We try but are unable to, process two tasks at once. Our brains are pushed to jump back and forth between two or more different sections, which handle different parts of our thought process. While all of this is going on, the last thought in our brains is art. As we devote more and more time to our gadgets and videogames, we devote less time to creating and appreciating art.