A friend who is a successful graphic designer was thinking back to his art school days recently and observed that the quality of creative work used to be about the strength of ideas and the creative thinking motivating the work and less about technology and technical processes, which seem to dominate much of our culture today. Creative work was built upon authorship, original thinking. There was an emphasis on content, on the message over the material (the material was just the vessel to carry the message), however it could be said that today often style is more influential than content. Having a strong and original message now seems less important, less easy to consume in a world with an abundance of seductive digital tools, which it could be argued are destroying eroding creative thought and creative making skills. This is not an anti-technology essay, but a recognition that technology should serve the creative mind, rather than it being the other way round. Tools are tools, the brain instructs their use and employment.
Has technology now got the upper hand? Well, is it just too easy to copy other peoples work, sample and restyle? Has social media over-empowered the audience? Is culture now about audience rather than the creator, the artist?
In filmmaking, edits could always be done using scissors and tape. A photographer was a skilled artist, from framing the shot to hand printing in the dark room, using creative judgement to shape the quality of the resulting image. Today digital effects can do it all, so replacing any originality and experimentation, taking away the individual making skill, and replacing with sterile corporate pallets, which do the work for you. Individuality is down for the count.
But all is not lost because the individual voice, the intimate and expressive human message, will always have enduring cultural impact whether in the visuals arts, film making, song writing, literature, poetry. These artists, writers, creative thinkers are more important than ever. Authenticity is what matters, the message trumps over technology. The meaning in creative work informs and educates us, influencing our understanding of the world and therefore our understanding of what it is to be human.
George Fullard sculptor and teacher, used to say to students ‘if you were on a desert island would you stop being an artist, would you stop making?’ No, you would draw in the sand, or write in the sand. So as long as you have the ability to make a mark, a surface to put it on and expressive intent, the message can be communicated.