In our image-saturated age, it seems inevitable that high art would eventually bring within its folds mediums once considered wholly commercial – photography and video art. Increasingly, contemporary art is considered that which uses the mediums characteristic of today’s technical era. Photography and video have an immediacy that the ‘traditional’ arts seem to lack. They have that feeling of the ‘now’: unfolding in real time and flashing to our screens events taking place across the globe, as they happen. Arts that use these technologies take on an aura of relevance that the classical two-dimensional and plastic arts lack (unless done as installations, on a mass scale, imitating the all-encompassing, overpowering sense imparted by the cinema or television).
Just as the adoption of the camera did decades ago, the current ubiquity of the flickering televisual image has altered our way of looking and seeing. The commercialization of photography allowed us to glide over an image, without paying too close attention; the ability to view videos at any moment, no matter where we are, has sped up the lifecycle of the image, which can become old news within a matter of hours.
Where does this leave painting? Is painting obsolete today, an anachronistic impulse?
Yet, painting can act as antidote. Its fundamental contrast with the digital arts forces as to view it in a different way than we do photographs or films. Painting slows us down; in an age of frenzy, it quiets, soothes. It requires a longer attention span because it forces into action those ‘muscles’ of seeing that have long become stiff from disuse. Similarly, digital arts succeed when they too push use to look at images in a new or different manner, by manipulating time or bringing attention to the body of the viewer. Art – whatever form it takes – succeeds when it pushes us out of our habitual modes of thinking and viewing.
In the context of Pakistan, the digital arts have been slow to catch on for a variety of reasons. They are expensive to make and exhibit and consequently, the vocabulary necessary to understanding the medium is absent. Though they may address issues of local concern, many of the artists who regularly produce video and large-scale photographic works are those who tend to exhibit and function in the global arena. However, there is bound to be a shift in the teaching and production of digital arts in Pakistan as well, with growing access to cheaper forms of digital production, namely the rise of the phone camera and the increasing availability of inexpensive digital cameras.
These changes are already apparent in the growing use of the internet as a primary resource in Pakistan. As an online publication, ArtNow is deeply invested in the vast potential of this communication revolution and the expanding possibilities in new ways of thinking about and creating art it generates. We strive to make ArtNow a platform where our readers can navigate these exciting developments in a rewarding and informative manner.
Bye for NOW.