The Arts

Interesting article in SMH examing the role of the Arts in modern culture. Background: Theatre companies are struggling, ballet, dance, orchestra’s are not valued by the public and are making a loss. Even music has gone down 10%.

As corporations move to deliver services, they are increasingly selling us emotions and feelings rather than products. We are being empowered and those who used to entertain us seem to be more and more irrelevant. Why go to a play when you can download a movie? Why listen to a band when you can download it on your phone? What do struggling artists really know about the money-hungry speed driven ruthless world that we live in?

The main cause of this change is globalisation. Gloablisation has meant artists have a worldwide platform for which to show their products, but the side affect is that audiences expect everything they see and hear to be of worldwide standard.

Feminism brought individualism. City sprawl, more cars, more work time, planned communities that were planned to purposely have no community; all lead to greater individualism and empowerment, but greater isolation. We are a nation of global individuals who happen to be living next to one another. Why support your neighbour’s band when you support an obscure Scandinanvian band that plays exactly the type of ghetto nu-skool happy hard retro trip funk that defines you as an individual. People have their job, and their friends, and their life, but they don’t have their city, or their community. There is no sense of belonging to Sydney and going to see Sydney’s artists because they might be able to speak to you better than Hollywood.

In the short term – things will get worse before they get better. The fore-front of social change is terrorism and the IT revolution, and these forces will continue to dominate everyday life. Music and movies will continue to be consumed, partly because they are global commodities, and partly because they are goods that can be justified as decreasing stress and are generally valued by the community. Local artists will struggle more and more, as will the study of Arts. People will concentrate on new gadgets, new wars, new jobs and new lifestyles. New plays, new bands, new ways of thinking, will have to wait.

In the long term – something has to give. People will eventually get used to the continual improvement of technology, I think technology will forever continue to improve from this point but I think people will fall into routinues in the way they use it and it will reach a point where it reflects society rather than revolutionises it. Take for example the mobile phone: they will get video, they will get more features, but they will serve the same basic paradigm. Once technology paradigms settle, people will be able to adjust to their new lives and will begin to look to the arts to imitate and comment on it.

Likewise the arts will see a revolution so that is more of a reflection on society. Plays still feel like a reflection on a different society without the internet. Australian Idol and Survivor have become our culture because they are interactive and mirror our lives and we feel empowered by them. Tomorrow’s plays put us in control through technology. Tomorrow’s bands create using technology and distribute tools that allow you to make music like them. Tomorrow’s band is more like an algorithm, a mini-genre, or a type of sound, than a piece of musicians. Tomorrow’s art will fit tomorrow’s devices. And as such with new devices will come new art forms.

But perhaps sailing won’t be so smooth. There will also be a large faction of the arts that rebels against pop-culture, isolation, oil-wars and globalisation. This movement will draw active support from few but silent support from the many who appreciate its values and ideals but feel trapped in their jobs and in their lives by technology. It will exist as the dominant counter-culture but because it will always remain both a throwback to the past and a reaction to mainstream culture, and because it hinders on the rejection of globalisation, it will always remain in the shadows.

This is my predictions for the future.

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