Tuesday, November 16, 2004

21st century Renaissance

People talk a lot about the decline of our culture, how only shit art gets made, how we're sinking into a tarpit centered on the mass-market attractors of ignorance and id. No one pays attention to true art, just to vacuous pop art.

Well okay. Maybe they don't put it quite that way. But, I'm willing to bet that this is a sentiment with which you'll be familiar. I'd also wager that what you just read just doesn't ring true.

The context is all wrong. There is no more ivory tower art world, just as there is no more pop art. Neither really exists anymore. The exclusionary nature of high art has fused its memes with its color-bedazzled cousin, and has spawned a thousand mutant offspring: the niche art of the modern age. The internet has midwifed into being a greater diversity of artistic endeavor than our species has ever seen, carried through with an unprecedented energy. People with the rarest of proclivities and the most eccentric of tastes form communities, providing markets for artists who before would have been co-opted into larger movements or simply vanished into obscurity.

True, we are watching our old culture die, though only in the sense that parents die while their children live on. The essential memes are robust, and they thrive even as our mass culture fragments like a broken mirror. A darwinian competition (or lamarckian perhaps? We deal with memeticities, after all, rather than genomes) is emerging between these endlessly variable sub-cultures, taking place at a timescale previously characteristic only of subatomic particles.

What does all this mean? I'm no more qualified to answer that than you are. In the meantime, I'm just gonna go and soak up the amazing cultural products of this glistening new renaissance.


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