With a focus on the visual arts, what is the current and potential role of contemporary analogue and digital media?
With regard to the visual arts, I can only respond by referring to my own individual taste. This response is therefore 100% subjective, and a mere stab at an answer proper. I’m always loathe to place too much emphasis on media. In my elevated highbrow ivory tower, I’d like to think that the idea is paramount and any materials are mere byproduct. That said, the sheer visceral impact of any artwork has always mattered to me, so maybe that’s as good a place as any to start... yeah?
The response to new media that I’ve found the most compelling in recent years has been the work of Ryan Trecartin, the young American artist whose work is performance based, heavily scripted and was initially screened on his YouTube channel. He’s an interesting example of what happens to artists in the contemporary art market. When Trecartin first emerged, all his material was broadcast on YouTube, its aesthetic completely anarchic and its audience was the untold number of outsiders sat there rapt, all glued to their laptops. I exaggerate, but yeah. As he’s swept up by collectors, more ‘analogue’ artworks such as sculptures are sold. As his genius becomes evident to the artworld, so renowned institutions start to put on big thematic shows, with installation playing an increased role.
So now? I suppose he’s an example of someone whose work has had to adapt to its audience. He’s a genius who, like all of us, has to pay the rent. As a standard stereotype hipster, I must say I prefer the early stuff.
Someone else working in digital media whose work I’m a fan of, someone much closer to home, is the young Scottish artist Rachel Maclean. She makes for an interesting point of comparison with Trecartin as both have very hyper dayglo aesthetics, both have a strong emphasis on performance, and to me they both respond to contemporary culture by chewing it up and spitting it back out. She’s another genius with a YouTube channel whose work has developed into immersive installations. What I find compelling is exactly that idea of immersion.
As a teenage art student I had a fondness for Abstract Expressionism, and my fantasy was always to step into those enormous paintings and actually be inside the artwork. Artists now have the tools at their disposal to make our total immersion possible. Maybe with the transition from analogue to digital, that fantasy could become a reality?