The future of art is a complex subject. Art has evolved and changed so much over time, but it has always somehow needed the art of the past to keep the evolution going. New conventions are being displayed all the time as resources and ideas change and grow. People are able to use what they have learned from the past and then expand on those past forms with new ideas. Repetition will always play a part in new art because it will always somehow be based on or inspired by an older art form. There would be no future in art without a great past. It is the past that pushes art towards the future.
Art of the past has shown the pattern of building off of previous art forms. When jazz started to gain popularity in the early twentieth century, Stravinsky referred to it as “the classical music of the twentieth century” (class notes). Stravinksy, who is still known as one of the most influential modern composers, and other composers of his time, such as Ravel and Bernstein, even began to use elements of jazz in their typically classical styled music. This has a lot to do with societal pressures and desire of artists to move into new sounds and images.
Society is likely to have influenced many artists over time to create new techniques and styles. People like to see and hear new things. Although many people will challenge the oncoming of change, others are inspired and intrigued by it. It allows people to see how the society they live and function in is inspiring new thoughts and ways of thinking. Also, as time goes on, people evolve. People begin to look at things in a different light. As has been discussed, “Art isn’t dead, just the classical way of looking at it is” (class notes). People’s sensibilities, they way they view art, and they way they process new information changes over time; it changes with society.
This may also have a lot to do with why some art forms and new styles emerged in some locations many years before ever being heard or seen in other locations. Societal norms and customs are diverse in different place around the world. Like when Reich, who was born in New York, moved to California, it is noted that “his move westward brought him into contact with alternative American traditions that had been developing in relative isolation since the second decade of the century, with sporadic infusions from the European émigrés who had come to Los Angeles in the thirties and forties” (Ross, pg 520). The new traditions in California were different than those of New York. And even in California, they had been influenced by the Europeans. It is the different cultures and norms in these various locations that allowed music and other art to grow at different speeds and in different directions. And even these new musical traditions were, in some way, reminiscent of classical composition and classical form. According to Alex Ross, “the circuitous chain of events that led to minimalism began with a kind of California mutation of the Second Viennese School” (Ross, pg 520).
And in Europe, too, artists in the thirties, forties and fifties were beginning to realize that the art of the past will continually influence the art of the future. Artists like Schoenberg, who was devoted to nontonal music that had come to be in the early 1900’s, began to be more accepting of the oncoming of new forms of music. It was becoming clear that the music of the past would continue to influence the music of the future, but that the music of the future could not be stopped from coming to life. Schoenberg himself once wrote “I cannot deny the possibility that as often in the musical past, when harmony has developed to a certain high point, a change will occur which will bring with it entirely different and unexpected things” (Ross, pg 390). It is when the music of the past reaches a level it has not seen before, that new change will occur. Without these turning points, without the art of the past, there could be nothing to build upon, no point at which to start making something new, something which has never been thought of before. Artists of the time were aware of the turning points they had see and were becoming aware of the turning points they had yet to see.
And it wasn’t only in the first half of the century that people were aware of the new art techniques that were coming. Even in the later years people knew that in order to create art they had to use forms of repetition. Repetition is the key to the future art, from the romantic period to the modern period to the current time. “The past makes the rules for the future” (class notes). Without knowing how art came to life in the past, it would be impossible to bring new art to life. Or, as stated by Milan Kundera, in his book “Testaments Betrayed,” “only inside history can a work exist as a value capable of being discerned and judged. Nothing seems to me worse for art than to fall outside its own history…” (Kundera, pg 17). Without knowing the art of the past, you cannot place a true value on the art of the presence. Art is infinitely connected through its own history, present and future. Without one, you cannot justly have the other.
Also, in these times, art began to be based more on man; his desires, his dreams, his wants, his fantasies. With art representing humanity instead of less tangible ideas, people of the time were forced to look at themselves in a new light. Who had they been, who were they now, and who were they becoming? Art was forcing people to change their sensibilities because they were being exposed to thoughts and ideas they had never publicly faced before.
Artists were using old and new techniques to bring new ideas to life. It was a meeting of two eras, a coming together of possibilities in art. But, as always, art was simply keeping up with history. Changes in art and people’s perception of art had been seen before, for instance when Salome premiered shortly before the turn of the century. As stated by Alex Ross when discussing the phenomena of two periods of art coming together in front of an amazed audience, “Past and future were colliding; centuries were passing in the night” (Ross, pg 10).
And even after the era of the original modernists, changes continued to be based on history. Towards the midpoint of the century, electronics were being introduced into popular music. Some people considered this noise while others simply considered it to be a new technique. A way of moving forward from the past, just as had been done before. Many of the artists who loved music also welcomed the use of “noise” such as John Cage. He wrote in 1937, “I believe that the use of noise to make music will continue and increase until we reach a music produced through the aid of electrical instruments which will make available for music purposes any and all sounds that can be heard” (Ross, pg 398).
And to the dismay of those who disagreed with his opinions, he was right. But the idea didn’t start with electronics; it started with artists using ordinary objects to produce music. It began with artists taking the music they and their societies were used to and adding to it. They added ideas that turned into sounds that turned into music. All of the changes of the twentieth century revolve around repetition and building off of what was already there. The art of the past becomes the foundation to the art of the present and future.
And today, the promise of repetition is still intact. Art of the recent years has become highly electronic. And this standard fits all venues of art. The possibilities given to artists by the creations of new electronics and instruments have become endless. Musicians can create music without touching an instrument, but that doesn’t stop it from being music. While many, many people still keep to the art of painting, there have now been added elements with computer design and graphic editing programs. But this doesn’t make an image created by a computer less of a piece of art than a painting done by hand. Artists of today are building on the foundations they have been given over the previous centuries.
A musician can take an idea based on a classical piece and turn it into a vision of the present day with the aid of electronics and technology. An art designer can take a thought originally presented in a painting from the nineteenth century and add to it, make it come to life in a way that represents the new societal customs and norms. “You can enter art at any point and you can leave it at any point” (class notes). You can enter the cycle of art today, create a work of art that is based on or inspired by a piece of artwork from any other time period, and use your new ideas to exit the cycle in the future. The work of today becomes a piece of the future and a new part of the foundation created by the past.
New art almost requires the art of the past. Without it, without those thoughts, those ideas, those premises of what art means to man, moving on would be near impossible. Art has turning points, or meeting points, where it becomes clear that a new way of thinking about or producing art meets the old traditions and they collide. They merge into a single concept that allows artists to continue working and to continue expressing the values of humankind through their works.
It is important to recognize that art has become a way of human expression. It does not only express the values and feelings of the artists but also of their surroundings, their society, their customs and their cultures. Art has evolved from a simplistic form of entertainment into an intricate view of the human condition. Whether others agree with this view of the human condition is subjective. People choose what they want to believe.
The audience of a piece of artwork will choose whether or not they want to submit themselves to being almost judged by the view of an artist. But if the artwork doesn’t truly convey the human condition, it still transmits the way at least one person views the current human condition. All people are subject to judgment and to having their current state of living summarized into something they may or may not agree with. But the beauty of art is that it does not have to appeal to everyone who views it. Public understanding is not a requirement of art.
Like the artists of past eras have used their art to portray their feelings and beliefs about the current world state, artists of today have the same freedom. This is just another example of how art is repeating itself constantly. Although the human condition has changed since World Word Two, the artists of that time and of this time are equally using their abilities to express their concerns and beliefs. Would artists of today know how to truly express their world views through their work had they not seen the examples of the past?
Art is headed in a direction that it has already been before. The future of art will continue to be based on the lessons learned from the history of art and the history of artists. There is a cycle of repetition and change that will continue as long as human beings choose art as a form of expression and freedom. Whether people want to see what their truths are or not, art will continue to force people to look at themselves from an outside perspective.
As societies continue to grow and change, artists are being given more opportunities to express their views of the world around them. As far as if art is in a place that tells us something about ourselves we do not want to know, it most likely is and always will be. Art is raw expression. It is uncensored and honest about the state of the world around it. To censor art would stop it from truly being art; it would take something crucial away from the work that would strip it entirely of its original purpose. That is one of the beauties of art; it forces people to stop and recognize where they have been and where they are going. It allows people to see someone else’s perspective of their world and their place in the world.
If art never showed people things they didn’t want to see, if it never created a controversy or never made people stop and evaluate themselves, it would be hard to make progress. It is when art allows people to think of themselves and their world in a new way that it is able to move to a new place. People need time to assess what they have already been given before they can fathom moving on. This cycle has been repeating for years and will continue to repeat for as long as people continue to make art.
The future of art is a questionable place. People in the past have fought for liberties such as freedom of speech and freedom of expression. As time passes though, it seems these liberties are facing a cycle similar to art. When an artist can be tried in a court of law because of the “indecency” of their art, you have to question if these liberties are still in place. Although, like every other cycle of art, this has been a question artists before; everything is repetitive.
I believe that art will never truly be dead. There will always be people in the world who are capable of producing new ideas that have never been seen before. Also, the way societies and cultures think and process new information will continue to change. Therefore, even people’s views of classical art will continue to change. So long as people and cultures are growing and changing, people’s ability to produce art will continue to grow. Art is a form of expression that won’t die as long as people’s desires to express themselves are alive.