Monday, February 20, 2012

The Blackboard of the People: Or,

How Many Links In One Post?

I was at a great party this weekend--thanks, Chicana on The Edge!--and among all the things we talked about came a really fantastic conversation about art and what it means to make art now. My friend The Photographer said that the internet has been this amazing tool that gives a voice to the voiceless and has been a huge tool in the democratizing of the artistic process. The Internet is going to save the arts*.

I think there's something to it, and it's not the first time I've heard this argument. There's probably some article from Wired magazine about the internet and how it's providing platforms for film production and the new wave of publishing. Consider the Life in a Day project or the fact that record labels aren't even making CDs anymore, or that Kodack stopped making cameras.  Consider online entrepeneurs like Michelle Phan, who started as a YouTube filmmaker and art student in Florida and who now is now an international spokesperson for Lancome and who has 5.3 million views for her videos. These are just the examples that I know about, and I know there are lots, LOTS more that I don't know about it. But the internet's been an incredible means of putting art into the world, of connecting with others. It's like a giant blackboard.

But it's also like a giant lost and found.

If you read my recent post about the hot snakeskin heels, you know I don't hate Lost & Found's. But this weekend at the party, I made the comment that I think that the Internet may be causing a kind of leveling off of work. Comment trolls notwithstanding, I think there's a kind of plateauing that's going on. There are some really interesting, thoughtful and insightful things on the internet: I've been reading this blog, and this one, (p.s., they're sex-ed blogs, so be warned, and enjoy) and even this one, which, despite the fact that I'm linking to, I struggle with a lot--and maybe it's a stretch to call them art. I've also been frequenting this site and this one. But I feel like I can't swing a dead (virtual) cat without hitting a fashion blog--yes, I read it, with an ever lessening sense of shame, because that whole world is new and interesting to me--and this morning I read this article at BitchMedia about what blogs like these are actually doing.

Langston Hughes said sometime, somewhere, "The prerequisite for writing is having something to say." I wonder how much the Internet is a microphone for people who think they have something to say, but who maybe just don't. Who just want to post pictures of their cat in a necktie or show off their new striped tights or write out their wildest fantasies or their racist dogma. Shouldn't they be allowed to do this? Maybe this is what the Internet is for. Maybe the Internet isn't equalizing for the good or evening out our standards; maybe it's reinforcing a standard or class. Maybe the odds that you'll experience some crap art are higher if you're looking on the Internet than in one of the gallery spaces or concert halls or local theatres.

But we all know that's not how it works. We've all overpaid for theatre tickets to a play that was lauded to be the shit and wound up being half-baked with wooden dialogue; we've all been to see the next Citizen Kane and been pissed that we paid $12.50 and what we got was Flash Gordon instead. So the Internet's not indicative of what's good or not good.

I am loving the irony of asking if the Internet is a global microphone of mediocrity on my blog, too. I wonder frequently what I'm saying here, if maybe I'm not just one of those people who thinks they have something to say, but who really don't. Or at least, who shouldn't be saying what they have to say in this venue. This might be the pot calling the kettle mediocre.

But I don't know. I want the Internet to be part of this wave of joy and sweat and amazing-ness that transforms what we put on our stages and hang on our walls and listen to and read to one another in bed as we're falling asleep. But then I see really stupid things, or really offensive things, and my chest hurts and I have to go away and do some breathing just so I can concentrate again, and I think the Internet is nothing but a cesspool of boredom and stupidity.

Which makes the fact that you made it to the end of this post a triumph and a gift. Thanks for reading! ;)

*for the record, I'm using "arts" really loosely here: film, the written word, photography, also fashion and design, etc. Wide net.
Final total= 8 links. I really wanted to show (some of) what I've been reading lately.

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