When I read “Art Activism” my immediate connection was to Alexandra Bell’s artwork regarding bias in the media, and reputable news sources criminalizing black people and excusing white criminals. Her work is immensely powerful, and follows many of the traits this article lists as “artistic activism”. Bell took a problem which she felt needed to be addressed, and found a creative manner to represent the ideas she wanted to shed light on. These were posters put around New York City, making it accessible. It’s art, but it doesn’t necessarily look like art, and it’s activism, which certainly doesn’t fit into traditional forms of activism (i.e. sit ins, petitions, meetings etc.). It is the embodiment of making a peaceful statement, creatively, profoundly, and concisely. Bell’s work is so important in a society which relies so heavily on the media for information. Her work points out that even the most respected news sources have inherent biases which are dangerous to the minority community and how they are perceived.
Photo: Alexandra Bell
Art activism is beyond powerful. In a world which expects anything and everything to be aesthetically pleasing, creativity is a must. Attention is only given to that which is visually stimulating, which puts a lot of pressure on those who are trying to make a statement. Everyone is being exposed to a nauseating amount of information everyday, so whatever will make one thing stand out from another, is important. Which is why artistic activism is vital to every movement. Your cause will only gain traction with your target audience if people actually pay attention to what you are arguing for (or against), and the best way to catch someone’s eye (or ears), is to take an approach which they haven’t encountered before.
One of the most important parts about artistic activism is being able to move someone emotionally. However as people are frequently selfish, I think relatability plays an important role when trying to gain public attention. How much can a target audience relate to the concepts you are putting forward, why should they care? Whats it to them, you know? So being able to creatively connect to a multitude of people will make a much bigger impact then simply throwing information at them.
I believe the most important part of interpreting artwork is understanding the time it was made. The sociopolitical climate surrounding the artist, as well as the trends of the age are all extremely relevant to the artwork. I often search the context in which the art was created, and see how the art reflects those concepts.
With regards to criticism, I love it. I am a extremely judgmental person, constantly assessing the aesthetics of the world (and people) around me. So having a session where I can tell people what I think of their artwork, what I think is working, and what can be worked on, is my DREAM. I love it. I love receiving criticism as well. Art comes out it’s best when consulted with many people, a variety of opinions and points of view are vital to seeing all the different directions in which you could take your work.
I really do take these matters delicately. Presenting your art to a group of people is a daunting experience, especially for criticism. I really try to be sensitive to that, but stay honest in what I think isn’t beneficial to the message the artist is trying to send or the aesthetics of the work. Criticism is for people to improve, not to just shower them with affection, or to sit in silence, which seems to happen frequently.
My favorite part of this article was the discussion of how the art world interprets the arrival of new technology. With photography came the “death of painting” and other handcrafted art. However what Ran explains is that often times it isn’t the “death” of any medium, but simply the definition of art is expanded to fit the new arrival. I think that is a rather beautiful attitude. So often we hear the shunning of new technology, and how it’s ruining industry after industry, but within the art world it is simply furthering our definition of art and its purpose in society.
Art is an interpretation of the world we are in today, and it’s context is extremely important when trying to understand the climate of culture at the time it was created. I find that with all this new media, future generations will have such an easy time understanding the world as it is in this moment, simply due to the sheer volume of record we can keep. With VR (virtual-reality) video, time travel is essentially possible now. Much of art now is based on the experience it gives to the viewer. As digital media becomes more and more immersive, will media be judged solely on it’s cinematic or representational ability? The future is a wide open space, and the possibility for new art and media is limitless. However with the way Ran writes, we shouldn’t approach that idea with fear or hesitation, but rather fully embrace it as it comes.
I have a complected relationship with video art. I only recently discovered how much I enjoy making videos, especially with my newfound access to Premiere. It has opened up so many doors for me to express myself visually. It allows for me to put into image what I want so badly to express, but my other fine art skills are just simply not refined enough for me to do so. Thus video is a gorgeous medium which has awoken new opportunity for me.
However video art, as described in the article, is a relatively new medium, and has changed drastically as our society’s relationship with mass media has developed. Video art has a strange way of representing the human form, as it seems so close and so real, but also so separated from our reality. The narcissism aspect of video art culture is often what frustrates me. I find that when a video is so focused around the self, it often becomes extremely alienating to the viewer. A video of a man pointing to the center of a screen for 20 minutes can be seen a profound example of art in relation to new media, or as a confusing and ominous video which is also, extremely boring. Too often do I find myself walking past video projections in museums because I find that they are strange, confusing, and make little impact on me as a viewer. Now is this partly my fault for not trying to understand the art in front of me? Probably. But I think that since narcissistic video is so often focused on the person or artist featured, it fails to make an impact on me. The artist is Narcissus, and the viewer is Echo, watching him watch his own reflection. Wheres the amusement in that.
Since VHS video art, technology has bounded forward, making all types of platforms and software to create media of all kinds. We consume media of all kinds, and we have access to everything at the touch of a button. 7 seconds of video gives us all the enjoyment we need now a days, thus lengthy and slow narcissistic video has no home this day in age. However narcissistic video has a new home, with the concepts of vlogging, Snapchat, Instagram, and the world of social media. All of that feeds into the idea of ego and our visual selves. However now it isn’t only limited to artists or home videos, it’s a global network of self documentation. We live in THE age of narcissistic video.
The following was a video created after given 45 minutes to take random film around campus, and to combine it with a mix of audio and “significant” words or song lyrics. Originally I had created the video in a “music video” type set up, but remembered the concept of copyright laws just as I finished exporting the video (haha). Thus I completely reworked the audio using free sound sites and my own recordings. The last 25 or so seconds is a brief cut of “I Want The Real Thing” by Chuck Criss. This song is not mine, and I own no rights to it, however considering I based my entire video around it prior, there were some clips which I felt just wouldn’t be complete without the intended sound in the back.
Chuck Criss makes lovely music, find the song here. Support the artist here.
Additionally, the video uploaded to be slightly faded in color, which was rather frustrating considering I spent so much time on that specifically. To be honest, I’m not really sure how to fix that. Just know it’s quite a bit more saturated in my original cut than it is in the Vimeo version lol.
Any comments, concerns, critiques are always appreciated! Let me know what you think.
As someone who has been immensely interesting in sound and it’s impact on visual imagery, many of the points that Murch brought up I agreed with. Sound plays a pivotal role in the “showing not telling” aspect of visual arts. If too little is given, there’s not enough of an atmosphere created, and the experience doesn’t impact the observer enough. However if there is too much sound, then it can either distract from the visuals, or the sounds in the piece which hold more significance.
I attended a panel which included a variety of sound artists. One worked on the NPR podcast RadioLab, which is known for it’s use of sound for story telling. Another was a sound engineer for movies, another was a soundtrack composer, and the last a sound designer for video games. One thing they all agreed on is sound is an extremely sensitive medium. It needs to be just right, finely tuned to the media it’s complementing, making the experience is neither too underwhelming or overwhelming. Especially regarding soundtracks, the music can add so much to a movie, but at a the same time spoil moments completely. I really hope to get more involved with sound engineering as I continue working, as I often find it to be one of the most impactful parts of visual media.
This essay is extremely rich in information about the progression of digital media, and not once did it become uninteresting. It was well written, and not difficult to understand, showing the author had a firm grasp on the material he was writing about. The discussion of computer cinema is what piqued my interest the most, because I think what is important to note is that with the rise in cinematic incorporation in computers and phones, rises the need for cinematic incorporation in our everyday lives. Production value, or the items which create the atmosphere of an experience, is so vital to media in the present day. Especially in advertising, everything is marketed as an experience. Books, movies, video games, food, drinks, technology, websites, furniture, all now are marketed to the consumer with the idea that purchasing an item means purchasing an experience. Production value is all about creating those details to make that experience seem more and more real. It extends to all forms of media, from marketing to music videos to award ceremonies. Enormous amounts of money go into creating brands now a days, and it’s extension into our phones, televisions, and computers only makes us crave more. The bar is continuously being set higher, and the constant improving of technology is only making it easier and easier to surpass. Digital cinema is now the norm, as well as the expected. If something isn’t interesting to look at, it doesn’t sell.
Really what touched me most was the introduction about Jean Genet and the double meaning objects can have. Hebdge uses Genet’s work as an example of how counter-culture gives beauty to things that may not seem so according to mainstream beliefs, and was a fascinating way to begin his essay. It gave a great summary of how identity and rejection plays into the rise of subculture. However I feel that the driving force between subculture is the aspect of community. Finding people who have similar interests or beliefs is relieving and powerful thing. Comradery is what makes the world that much less frightening, and makes being different a unifying aspect instead of a dividing one.
Regardless, the portion we read discussed more about how to define society. The varying definitions ranged from anthropology to highlighting high class lifestyle. Culture is often hard to capture, and as mass culture becomes more and more prominent in today’s society (how internet, television, movies etc. can be accessed by billions of people) the lines between society’s cultures are blurring. With the rise in technological dependency, humans are exposed to so much information a day, and that same information can circle around the globe countless times. Inspiration is drawn up from different cultures around the world, and then can be incorporated into the daily lives of people half a world away. Individual cultures seem to be slowly merging, or simply taking bits and pieces from others as time continues. Not that merging of cultures isn’t something that has been happening for thousands of years, but its simply just occurring at a much quicker pace and on a much larger scale. I don’t think the concept of a mono-culture is likely, however never say never in a world which is constantly advancing.