Art in 2014

Although it is difficult to identify trends in art that is currently being made today, several themes can be noted. Firstly art of today is still responding to the globalization and digitization of the world, but in increasingly nuanced ways, embedded with in the digital environment itself rather than acting externally. Secondly, artists are beginning to address what comes after both modernism and postmodernism.

Several cultural theorists have been able to articulate these trends into new idioms: the New Aesthetic and Metamoderism.

James Bridle is the pioneer behind the “The New Aesthetic.” The New Aesthetic describes the “increasing appearance of a visual language of digital technology and the Internet in the physical world;” that is, the visual blending of the virtual and physical.[1]

Bridle is interested in the ways in which virtual, coded networks are manifested visually, and can become accessible to people in a physical space. His work Drone shadows attempts to create a physical manifestation of the invisible digital networks they are a part of. He is also interested in render ghosts and Wikipedia and Twitter bots. Beings, who, in many ways have the functions of real people, but exist solely in virtual space. This trend also includes the transference of physical space into digital space, like with Google Earth and street view maps, which has had a myriad of responses including “street view wanderlust” and other emotional connections to virtual spaces they create.

Jordon Wolfson’s piece the Female Figure can be understood as an artistic manifestation of the New Aesthetic. The program is embodied in this figure and makes eye contact with viewers in the space. Wolfson articulates the digital world in physical space in an eerie and unnerving way.

Trends in technology and art may include the use of crowd sourcing and social media; greater accessibility to art made specifically for reproduction; the hybridization of the virtual and physical world as the web becomes increasingly interactive and video based; the use of new technology like nanotechnology, electronic inks, real and virtual robots, and auto-creation. The new media generated from the new virtual environment will likely be more subtle and intuitive than works form the early 2000s.

German theorists Timotheus Vermeulen and Robin Van Den Akker introduced the other concept of “Metamodernism” in 2010. They use this term to describe the continuous repositioning between the poles of modernism and postmodernism that they believed to result in a new, perpetually oscillating mode. Metamodernism describes the implicit dualities observed in the world post-postmodernism: a mode that negotiates between a yearning for universal truths and the acknowledgement of relativism; “between hope and doubt; sincerity and irony, knowingness and naivety; construction and deconstruction.” [2] Metamodernism describes the sincere desire for narrative and transcendence whilst being conscious of their inherent problematic nature. How is this manifested in the art world today?

Dennis Rudolph’s deserted landscapes are disrupted by the insertion of modern technology and religious imagery. However his landscapes remain secular and the allegory remains illegible because the symbols have been divorced from their religious meaning. Instead they speak to universal concepts while his visual aesthetic remains sinister. Rudolph’s work both constructed and deconstructs his notions of the universal.

Olafur Eliasson creates immersive environments that challenge traditional modes of art viewing through his integration of temperature, moisture, aroma, and light to generate physical sensations in the viewer. By transforming the gallery into a hybrid natural and virtual space, evocative of the artist’s native Scandinavia, The Weather Project has a level of abstract sincerity and interest in the sublime that Metamodernists felt  “requires a new idiom.”[3]

Paula Doepfner’s work is possibly the clearest articulation of the dualities of Metamodernist art. Her installation, try my dear, centers on a large cube of ice. The melting water of the ice drips into a rectangular metal basin and oxidizes the metal. Surrounding the sculpture are drawings with broken glass. Their organic structures evoke cells, veins, and blood. These objects are transparent, but unlike the ice they are unchangeable. These opposing types of material create a tension between adherence and disappearance. Doepfner’s work directly addresses the amygdala, the part of the brain responsible for the perception and evaluation of emotion. Her work attempts, “to capture the essence of the innermost thoughts and feelings, while at the same time they convey an awareness of the impossibility of complete comprehension of these internal processes. The ambivalence between the effort of holding on to something and failing in doing so is central to Doepfner’s work. But this awareness doesn’t mean resignation – in each of her works the artist gets closer to an inner system of feelings and thoughts that gives room for hope.”[4]

In 2011, Metamodernists released a manifesto that declared, “We propose a pragmatic romanticism unhindered by ideological anchorage. Thus, metamodernism shall be defined as the mercurial condition between and beyond irony and sincerity, naivety and knowingness, relativism and truth, optimism and doubt, in pursuit of a plurality of disparate and elusive horizons. We must go forth and oscillate!”[5]

Art today addresses technology and post-modernism, but in increasingly nuanced ways that suggested a more hopeful and emotional future.


[1] http://booktwo.org/notebook/new-aesthetic-politics/

[2] http://madmuseum.org/events/no-more-modern-notes-metamodernism

[3] http://www.metamodernism.com/2012/09/02/what-do-the-metamodernists-want/

[4] http://www.pauladoepfner.com/texte/text_11.html

[5] http://www.metamodernism.org/

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