Those of you who know me will agree that I am technologically backwards in that the latest electronic gadgets hold no fascination for me. It is somewhat incongruous I suppose since I work at a major technology company. I have never bought a computer (I have always had a work computer) and I still have not been tempted by the smartphone revolution. That being said I am a very passionate advocate of technology and find it incomprehensible when people use their smartphones with their right hand and bash technology with their left. The varied benefits of modern technology are too numerous to list and it is not my intent here to launch into a tirade against anti-technology folks. Instead I want to shed light on one particular aspect of technology that has perhaps been overlooked: the role technology, particularly in the last 50 years or so, has played in democratizing the arts.
Art is an outward expression of an idea in our head and as such needs a medium of expression. Without the medium there is no art. My assertion is that technology has not only created a wider variety of artistic mediums but also ensured that these mediums are available to a broad spectrum of people. Now more than any other time in human history it is easier to bring your creative vision to reality with technology. An aspiring writer need not use the traditional medium of pen and paper to get his writing to people nor does he need to pound the pavement and wait for an editor to get published. You can start a blog like yours truly. The number of people you can reach is only limited by your ability to be social online. What technology has done is lowered the barrier for entry into all types of artistic endeavors.
Aspiring musicians have benefitted from technology tremendously. A wide variety of music software exists to facilitate music creation. You don’t need a big music studio to record music. Software can provide you with all the bell and whistles you need to add to your own compositions. You can jam with your friends remotely. Musicians across different continents and cultures can create music together without spending money on flights and hotels. Technology has even done away with the need for recording on physical media. Photography is another relevant example. No need to mess around with chemicals in dark rooms. And if you believe the hype around Lytro, focussing will become a thing of the past. This new fangled camera allows you to focus after the images are taken!! You can play around and create the perfect picture in the comfort of your home on your computer long after you pressed click. How cool is that?
In addition to providing newer mediums for older art forms technology has also created brand new art forms such as web design and video game creation. Not only is content creation made easier, marketing and selling that content is also faster with technology. More people can dream of making a living through art. And if that is not possible technology makes it simpler still for an average joe such as myself to create his own art and not merely be content with consuming the art created by the professionals. Now that is cool indeed.
The topic for this post took shape in my mind on an unusually sunny fall sunday afternoon while drinking at my neighborhood establishment (I was eating also in case you think I am a drunk). Now I am neither tortured nor a genius by any stretch of imagination but I am uniquely qualified to comment on this topic solely by virtue of my like of a good pint in the afternoon. So here’s a teaser for you: If two events A and B happen simultaneously does it imply a causality between A and B or is there another event C that caused both A and B? I can give you millions of examples, ok maybe two or three, to illustrate my point. Obama became president (event A) and the economy slid into depression (event B), the two events were directly related to President Bush’s general incompetence (event C). The republicans will have you believe otherwise of course i.e A led to B. Pardon my blatant use of my blog to broadcast my political leanings (you will never hear a republican apologize for this by the way) but you are probably asking yourself what the hell has this got to do with price of tea in China? Allow me to expound. The concept of a tortured genius, one who abuses alcohol and all manners of drugs (event A) while still producing exquisite art (event B) fascinates us like no other (I am limiting my scope of inquiry here to artistic genius.) We tend to think of artistic creativity in a naively romantic fashion: all we need to do is go drink absinthe in one of the Parisian cafes frequented by Hemingway and voilà we can make the bells toll at our whim. Unfortunately or fortunately this is not the case as yours truly can attest to. So this is a case where A and B are in juxtaposition from our vantage points but if we try to do A in the hope of making B happen it ends in failure. Main exhibit: the multitude of so-called artists who are to be found dime a dozen in any watering hole. Now as any artist worth his/her salt will tell you, the realization of one’s creative expression comes after endless trials and failures and often involves painstaking discipline that’s hidden from the public eye. Now if A does not lead to B or vice versa what is the C that’s responsible for both A and B? In other words, the correct question to ask is what’s driving (C) the artist to drink (A)? And the answer has to be the force behind the artists’ creative output (B) as well. I believe the answer is excessive neurological activity or “too much thinking” in the artist’s head, which is not easy to control. Have you ever had a thought in your head that you struggled to give shape to? What if you had hundreds of these thoughts crisscrossing your brain? What do you do about that? You either find a way to express these jumble of thoughts which is what art is or it will drive you to drink or worse. In extreme cases you may need to do both. Use of alcohol or drugs helps in slowing down the activity in your nervous system in turn allowing you to channel your thoughts, thereby enabling the creative output that provides you relief.
Moral of the story: An artistic genius will most likely abuse mind altering substances but the said abuse does not an artistic genius make.
I realize that I maybe oversimplifying things a bit but I think I have captured the essence. Thoughts? Comments?