The Arts Scene
MSM Class of 2013
(3/2013) This month, the Mount students who write for the newspaper were asked to watch the movie, Good Night and Good Luck and then write our articles in response to it. The movie highlights
a speech by Edward R. Murrow in 1958 that focuses on the role of technology, primarily television and radio, and how society has manipulated their uses for the sole purpose of entertainment rather than education.
Murrow describes technology as powerful "instruments of mass communication" that are underutilized because of an unwarranted fear of controversy from the general public. Murrow assures us that when "evidence on a controversial subject is fairly and calmly presented, the public recognizes it for what it is—an effort to illuminate rather than to
agitate." Instead of just settling for material that is pleasing to all, it is important to challenge the viewer for the benefit of the individual and of society as a whole.
Technology is undoubtedly an influential aspect of society, because technology in itself reflects the progression of man in terms of education and capability, but Murrow reminds us that we build traditions and create precedents for ourselves every day. As a result, it is important that we keep our greater good in mind when we use these tools. Rather
than "constantly striving to reach the largest possible audience for everything," we should focus on using the tools of technology to improve our own intellect and stay aware of the happenings in the world around us. It is the quality that should be most important, not the quantity.
After watching the movie, I immediately knew the approach I wanted to take to this month’s article.
Art has evolved with the times, and some may even say that it has been ahead of the times. This is directly represented by the concept of art movements. Realism, Impressionism, Cubism, Art Nouveau, Dada, Pop Art, Surrealism, Romanticism…the list goes on and on. The defining characteristics of art movements are often directly correlated with the customs
and values of society at that given time. Art movements are generated by challenging what is commonly accepted and inspiring innovative ways of thinking.
But as art keeps up with the times, it is important that it not be consumed by the times. In his speech, Murrow explains that in order for technology to progress, it must ironically reverse. Because technology had become so misused over the years, Murrow thought the impact technology had on society would be greatened by reverting back to the purpose
for which it was originally used: education. In a world where art is such a forward-thinking field, I think it is important to remember its foundation. Although technology can indeed be beneficial by increasing the breadth and reach of many works of art, it should be used as a supplement to the physical artwork, not as the sole means by which to access the art.
Of course there have been developments in art with the addition of graphic design, digital prints, digital photo manipulation, etc. This is a prime example of how art has developed with technology, but there are a few things about technology that I feel have inhibited the overall progress of art.
Murrow’s speech is directed toward radio and television, but as time has progressed since his speech, technology has advanced to include the Internet, smartphones, reading tablets, etc. Nowadays, you can access millions of works of art just by logging onto your computers. The concept of going to a museum to physically experience works of art is foreign
to many people, because they have access to such a large wealth of information at their fingertips. Why go to another city, state, or country to see a work of art when all you have to do is go on your computer and visit the countless search engines available to you that can spit out the information in seconds?
In reality, it is not about just viewing the artwork; it is about experiencing it.
There is a sort of miscommunication that results from viewing artwork solely on the computer. Looking at a digital photograph of a painting, whether the painting is hundreds of years old or was just made yesterday, takes away from the physical presence of the artwork itself. It also affects how we experience and view the art. The texture, the scale,
the vivid colors, and the message depicted in the piece can be lost in translation. The brushstrokes of artwork so often play a large role in conveying the artist’s emotion, and an online image can only do so much to match that.
A written description of a work can give you a general sense of what the experience would be like, but it does not compare to what that experience would be like in person. The size of artwork is typically posted along with the image, but it is really only a number until you actually see the large painting looming in front of you or the small, detailed
work that hangs right before your eyes. Pretty much anything can now be condensed to a jpeg format, but the impact and message of the work should not be condensed along with it.
Now, this high access to artwork through technology does of course have a positive effect, also. I was lucky enough to travel to Vienna with faculty and students from the Mount this past summer and visit the Belvedere, but not everyone is able to do that, so being able to see the works of art that are displayed there online is a wonderful thing. After
all, some access is better than no access. When used properly, the Internet can bring a wealth of knowledge to people who may not be exposed to it under typical circumstances.
Technology has even influenced the job market when it comes to the art world. In today’s society, digital portfolios often replace the big black portfolios that used to be carted around by artists to showcase their work. I can attest to this because I personally have an art website (www.kathrynfranke.com) that was created with the purpose of being
listed in job applications and résumés, and it has been a great way to condense some of my best work into a common location. Despite its convenience, however, there is still part of me that wishes I could show the original artwork to everyone who
views the webpage, just because the experience of viewing the artwork is so different than viewing just a digital image of it.
How many times have you found yourself assuring someone that a story you just told doesn’t even do it justice? This is the same concept.
I experienced this firsthand with the national juried art show that I planned along with a fellow student, which was held at the Mount during the months of January and February. For the jurying process, we had the artists send in up to three digital images of artwork that they wanted to submit for our consideration. Because the artists were from all
around the nation, we had to select the artwork based on the images themselves so the artists would not have to ship the works across the country without even knowing if the work would be accepted.
After deciding on the works that we wanted to accept into the show, we notified the artists and they then shipped their works to us here at the Mount. By the end of the planning process for the show, we thought we knew their artwork like the backs of our hands. Based on the images the artists sent us, we had written a collaborative essay about the
artwork and how it reflected our show’s theme, The Natural World: A Postmodern Perspective. However, when we received the artwork and finally got to see it in person, we were amazed at how much more fulfilling the experience was. After analyzing the works for months, we didn’t think there would be any difference between our expectations and the physical works themselves.
When we received the art, we fell in love with it even more and had an even stronger connection to it. Seeing the intricacy in each piece, the care and attention that went into each decision the artist made, and the way the elements of the pieces worked together to create an impression on the viewer was such a rewarding experience. We, who had already
studied the works intensely, learned so much more about the art after seeing it there in front of us.
At the opening of our show, it was wonderful to see the number of people who spent extended amounts of time in front of each piece. People who have not had much experience with visiting galleries went out of their way to tell us how much they got out of the show, and many listed their favorite pieces and went on to research that artist even further
after the show.
Even after planning and hanging the show with my friend, I still go back to the gallery exhibit quite often to get another perspective on the artwork in the show. Each time, I notice something different, something that had previously gone unnoticed. Art keeps giving back each time you examine it, and the same piece can mean something completely
different to any given person. That subjectivity is what makes art so fascinating, and it is something that everyone should be able to experience firsthand.
In Good Night and Good Luck, Murrow explains, "the media of mass communications in a given country reflect the political, economic and social climate in which they flourish" and the "hard, unyielding realities of the world in which we live." Technology can "teach…illuminate…and even inspire" as long as "humans are determined to use it to those ends."
So, too, does art.
Art is an appeal to the senses. It is a form of expression, a depiction of thought and opinion. Art is not meant to be something that is looked at for a fleeting moment. There is so much depth and content that can be discovered through art as long as you enable yourself and others to have that experience. We cannot let modern art be constrained to just
the computer screen. I encourage you all to use technology as a supplement to art rather than a substitute for it. Visit a gallery or museum; go to a local art show; create your own original art. Use technology to research and expand your knowledge, but don’t limit yourself to just using those tools. To get the full effect of a work of art, you should not just view it; you
should experience it.
Read other articles on the local arts scene by Kathryn Franke