The Arts v art and in praise of the telephone

Nicely expressed in Rachel Coldicutt’s write-up of her Edgelands talk:

The Arts is a system that needs all the help it can get. It’s an infrastructure that needs trustworthy services to make businesses run and deliver services to patrons. Rather than making innovative ticketing systems, brand new video-streaming platforms or bespoke social networks, The Arts should make the most of its limited resources and stand on the shoulders of giants – use the best technology and services from the wider world, and deploy them in the best way possible.

But art is another matter. Art is about disrupting and subverting – changing and challenging the norms. “Art teaches us to see into things.” And this is the area we’ve been tentative in.

Personally, I’d caveat that first paragraph by saying there’s nothing wrong with The Arts making/improving/adapting/customising tech if it serves a purpose. cf also Matthew Somerville’s point about making educated decisions having weighed up the risks and rewards of relying on 3rd party services.

But then caveats should have no place in a provocation (which is what this is excerpted from).

Yay phones

Also from Rachel’s post came this (paraphrased) comment from the discussion that followed her talk:

The first assertion was that “there was no good Internet art” – that after the invention of the Gutenberg Press it took the first novel, Don Quixote, 150 years to appear, so perhaps we should be a little bit easy on ourselves. There isn’t a canon of telephone art from the 1950s, so perhaps the Internet isn’t all that as a medium for producing new art?

Which was interesting. Saying ‘phones are great’ would make me sound like a simpleton but, while they may not be a great medium for art in and of themselves, they’ve done a great job of helping to make art happen. People are keen to bang on about how ace the internet is at connecting people, I wonder if phones sit there seething with resentment at being overlooked constantly.*

To answer the rhetorical question posed in the quote – surely it’s too early to make judgments on whether the internet’s a good medium for producing art. That said, it’s already doing a decent job of facilitating many parts of the artistic process. I reckon it’s becoming a pretty good place to present certain types of art too.

Various related links:

What is digital innovation in the arts? #edgelands provocations set 2 (mp3)

* Of course they don’t. They’re phones.

Published by Chris Unitt

I work at One Further, doing digital projects with cultural organisations. Follow @ChrisUnitt or find me on LinkedIn.