When technology kills art

29 Jan

"The Artist"


I never thought much about how technology can create art forms until I saw Laurie Anderson perform. I never thought much about how technology can destroy art forms until I saw “The Artist.”

In the movie, a popular star of the silent screen refuses to make talking pictures. He does so for artistic reasons. His protests aside, the studio and public really don’t want him anymore.

He’s out of work; out of a career; out of a life.

Laurie Anderson

The film’s main character is endearing, but vain and maybe not even a real artist. He is certainly not Chaplin, a historically great performer who for a time also refused to make talkies.

The old and new film mediums required such different skills. The new forced actors to give up almost everything. How could Chaplin, such a master, abandon everything he knew simply because someone invented a new machine? How does a person at the utter and absolute top of his craft retire an art form that not only made him rich and famous but defined him to the world?

It’s nearly impossible.

More important, how is it that the art consuming public allows a great art form to be retired?

Things Chaplin did are still being done by mimes and clowns and dancers and comedians. But they are not being done in such a concentrated fashion and they are not being delivered to such a mass audience.

I find this sad, as I found “The Artist” sad.

Still, the work of tech-art pioneers like Laurie Anderson makes me feel good, which is at least some compensation.

Invariably, if you give an artist a new form of expression, he or she will use it to create something so exciting that people will turn away from the past.

Ancient technologists, in pre-historic times, learned to make paint-like materials and then decorated caves with them. Since then, and perhaps even before, technology and art have been forever linked.

No one can really fault that. In a way, it’s life affirming.

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