When I asked the question of whether the digital age, the introduction of the internet, and the modern world we live in now has changed the way art is critiqued, accepted, and embraced has changed over the last few decades, the answer is never ‘if,’ but always how.
It makes sense. There’s no way the traditional ways of critique would stay the same with the hyper-connected state of the world. It doesn’t matter where you go, whether you’re in the comment section of a Tweet, a photo on Facebook or YouTube video, a blog post, a news website discussion board, or even in a WhatsApp message thread, opinions are rife, and everyone has one.
But when you consider opinion-based based authorities, such as the ones in the art critic world, how have they been affected by these changes, and what does the future look like? Heck, what does the present look like? This is an essay to find out.
The Erosion of Taste
Yup, that’s a pretty bold subheading. Still, as far as most art cultures agree, the introduction of the digital age was the beginning of, as Allison Croggon of ArtsHub writes, ‘the destabilization of hierarchies of taste.’ Whereas a critic has authority when referring to a piece and others would significantly regard their opinion, this is no longer the case.
When everyone has an opinion, and every opinion can be read, what’s to make one argument greater than another? I could go to an art gallery right now, with no art experience, write a blog post about some of the artwork I see from an exhibition. That article has just an equal chance to go viral to a blog post written by someone who has decades of experience.
I love this change, but I do see both sides of the story. Great artists have been crushed in the past due to the ideas and shared opinions of art critics, even if those opinions have been ‘wrong’ or not open enough to see the expression that the artist wanted.
When you have critics, you’re deeming a piece worthy or not worthy based on the opinion of just a handful of people, yet someone, anybody, could see an art piece, and it could change their life forever. The rise of the digital age has opened the doorway for this kind of interaction to happen.
This is great. Since the rise of the internet, more people can share more opinions, and sure, it can get very flooded and confusing at times, and many people won’t know what they’re talking about. Still, artists have more connections to an audience than ever before and have a much more comprehensive range of communication with people experiencing the work they produce.
An active relationship like this is something many artists have never experienced before.
This kind of thinking, however, would accurately describe the beginning of the digital era. Not so much now. The landscape has changed.
Whereas it used to be possible for anybody to make a website and grow, the world has become far too crowded with opinions, and it’s very rare nowadays for someone to start a blog and manage to keep it going while being mostly unpaid and have it reach an international or global audience.
This means that the art critic world has shrunk back down to a handful of voices and groups who have an audience. Some may even go as far as to call them ‘influencers. These voices dictate what classifies as good or bad art, and it’s tainting what kind of content is being created.
Take a look at the movie, theatre, and play industry.
So many movies these days are the same, either being similar storylines or literal reboots of classics. There are few original ideas, and the ones deviate from what the ‘elite’ think are heavily controversial. Think about the most recent adaptation of the Joker, for example.
It is this approach that I believe has made the arts world a very limiting place. People aren’t creating what they want to create, nor expressing themselves truthfully and genuinely. Instead, they produce content that is deemed ‘acceptable’ by the massive PC or ‘what people want to see.’ It’s content that goes with the times, not defines the time, and I, for one, hope to see this change over the coming years.
God knows I don’t want to see more Tik Toks on my Instagram explore page.
About authorKendra Beckley is a cultural writer and editor at NextCoursework.com and OriginWritings.com. She explores new ways of thinking and aims to help others see the world in a new way and change the status quo of thinking.