Machine-made art

Much of the production of visual art is done by machine now. Computerized digital cameras are highly automated, as are image processing systems for still and motion pictures. The digital network infrastructure reaches even to the palm of our hand, distributing images and words. Audio information production is the same. And that powerful combination, added to the printed word, is a mighty voice.

This system of machines supporting visual art does well what machines can do well; lower the cost of mass production and replicate products in large volumes. This is Ford style automated production line. It has progressed wonderfully during the recent digital revolution. The products are similar in source material, design, and workmanship, in that they all share the same imagery: the real world, aesthetics: human global culture, and purpose: communicating ideas and stories.

There is good art being done in digital media and it depends much on machinery. Are its practitioners, if deprived of their tools, prepared to to continue their personal expression in another material way? There may be a filmmaker who uses the media in a fashion that is essentially handmade with a SLR and a laptop, doing the script, acting, lighting, and sound himself. But without them, would he sit by a campfire and create the performance with only his voice, and gestures and a flashlight?  Works of digital media are mostly narrative storytelling, and when not, when being abstract, the meta-narrative of the creation technology becomes the story.

The individual object of art is almost unaffected by this change. It will continue to be created, mostly by one person, by hand, with simple tools, or un-specialized machines, individually. There is little distribution because the market is small and the object is unique and physical, limited in movement. The personal expression of the artist is unique in it’s source: the inner life of the person, it’s creation: the specific manual skill and sensibility of the artist, and it’s meaning: sensuality or spirit, or, whatever.

Individual art is a declaration, not a parable. A statement made by a person. Not the tired moralizing storylines, yet again and again, of good vs evil, the underdog who perseveres, of revenge fulfilled, of personal redemption, the hero, and all that other rot of manufactured sentiment. Enough of all that.

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