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Thursday, 14 November 2013

Closing arguments, part five:
To any new readers: I began writing this blog in April, 2013. To read the earliest entries, find the archive of posts, at the bottom of this page.

Ah yes, the tweet; and teenagers texting and playing digital games, transfixed day and night  in the glow of  their smartphones. It's a wonder that any of them survives crossing the street. Conversation? What is conversation to these young people? Can meaningful dialogue be somehow extracted from thousands of thoughts that are no more than "What's up? Not much, what's up with you?" How can they possibly enter into dialogue with a work of art? How can we expect these children, who have spent their entire lives with computers and flashy moving images, ever to engage seriously with some still image or object – a painting or a sculpture?

As to making art for the present moment – thinking of the past as a burden and discounting the importance of a future that may never unfold – again, this is nothing new. You and I know first-hand about the struggles that followed two world wars and the advent of nuclear weapons. So much of the art of the 1950s and 60s was made by artists who abandoned the rigour of time-tested materials and methods that conservators now spend so much time on work of that period that older, more stable paintings, for example, receive less attention. I'm not sure how worried one needs to be about art that ignores past and present. This is not a new concern.

You have been very quiet, David. We are all here having accepted your invitation. What are your thoughts about all of this? 

Newkirk, concentrating on his empty cup and fiddling with the spoon as he speaks:
Well, I did see something at the Giardini that I found very encouraging. Just inside the grounds of the Biennale, a young woman who I assumed was a teacher stood talking with her class of about twenty children who were six to eight years old, I would guess. 

There is hope in this; wouldn't you agree? It's not an easy thing managing twenty young children, but clearly the teacher felt that the Biennale was important for them to see. And all of the children seemed quite happy about the adventure. I can't imagine where we are headed with this smartphone generation. On the face of it, it certainly seems that they will utter more words with less meaning. But as long as there are children who visit galleries and museums, and teachers who will take them there, I think there is hope. After all, not so long ago there was novelty in the electric lightbulb and in trains and automobiles, airplanes, radio and television, cinema, rockets and on and on. As you said, Pablo, each generation deals with its distractions and its tragedies. Kids today will somehow manage their smartphones. I don't know how, or what the next 50 years will reveal in the world of art. But in the end, I am completely powerless to affect the outcome ... except, I suppose, that I will continue to try to make good paintings, and to hope that somehow, people will still enter into dialogue with me through my art. In short, I see what you have done as having value for others, as well as for yourselves. That is a big enough idea for me to engage with. The conversation is everything, and for people like you and me it is, I think, the most generous, honest and intimate dialogue we can hope to have with the world.

It is quiet now. My eyes focus, and I look up from my coffee. Velazquez, Picasso, Vedova and Tintoretto have vanished. As the shadows lengthen in the piazza, I sit alone with my thoughts, my empty cup ... and my iPad.

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