How many times is it possible for one person to hear the words “You’re always on that old thing,” or “look up, there’s a whole world out there,” that ‘old thing’ obviously being your mobile phone or tablet.
Whilst once the wonders of the World Wide Web were confined to the impossibly big and frustratingly slow family desktop in the office, the realms of the Internet are now conveniently portable, making “that whole world out there” more applicable to the tiny electronic device than what’s going on outside the front door.
The fact that Google maps can figure out a walkable route from the Robinson Library to Kazakhstan in under a second (3,487 miles, 44 days and one boat ride), or that some websites actually write essays for you, proves how our generation is fixated on instant gratification, including art. We don’t want failures, or the build up. Give us outstanding work now and there’s no other way you can compete for our interest. Stephanie Sharlow, writing for Elite Daily, commented that standing for more than a minute at a painting in MoMA is unrealistic now. “But, by god, every person will Instagram a photo from there to seem cultured to the outside world.”
In 2014, Elliot Jay Stocks declared, “Designers have stopped dreaming.” We have stopped being creative. This was in reference to web designers, concluding that every site looks exactly the same, due to The Grid, a piece of analysing software that takes your content and makes a website, with no need for a designer, or room for error and improvement. Just, “websites at the push of a button.”
From a personal point of view, it can be easy to see how the Internet can cause a cultural and social regression. Being a Fine Art student, I often ask myself, “Why bother paying upwards of £10 to go to an exhibition to view artworks that I can access for free, without even leaving my bedroom?” Despite this, I scraped together funds to view the Abstract Expressionism exhibition over Christmas at the Royal Academy – and it served a beautiful reminder of how important it is to view things other than off a screen. To view first hand the brush strokes, the colour mixing and the composition is invaluable compared to the harsh light of a mobile phone – and it can be applied elsewhere than just art. The feeling of crisp pages, or the smell of a new book? The sense of achievement when you successfully navigate somewhere? Even just the sound of someone’s voice, coupled with facial expressions? There’s no way a screen can give you any extra-sensory experiences such as these.
Crucially though, the Internet opens our eyes to the world’s art without paying for travel. We have access to contemporary amateur artists, who, without the Internet, may never be able to share their art with anyone outside their school art department or garage-come-studio. And as Stephanie Sharlow put it, “When there’s no audience, there’s no art.” As with anything, I guess, balance is always key.