It is undeniable that this generation is experiencing a period of drastic change and facing the resulting societal tensions. What is the role of art and artists within this?
If an artistic movement can be taken as constituting a campaign, undertaken to advance and appropriate this change, it becomes clear that a new movement must take centre stage. The YBAs reacted to Margaret Thatcher and the emergence of an entrepreneurial attitude in the creative field. This generation faces a parallel reaction: one responding to our dependence on tech and the increasingly fast pace of living. Technology has become our world and integral to our way of living. It can no longer act as a defining quality: we are not pro or against it, we just use it.
Yes, we have become resourceful, forward-thinking, and outspoken. But we are also impatient, constantly searching for immediate satisfaction and temporary gratification. How do you balance these qualities? How do you retain expediency without losing integrity?
In big cities like London and New York, the unremitting escalation of living prices has driven us to practicality and pragmatism. Real estate and schooling/university costs have increased at astounding levels and young people no longer have the luxury of regulating or delaying their entry into working life. In reaction to limited subsistence options within the cityscape, the new generation must study less, work harder, and get on faster.
Our lives are undermined by uncertainty: a generation born with no job security, no permanence of home, no pre-determined certainty of success. Experience has become our only truth, meaning our only insurance. Art leaves us with memories, and the feelings that we associate with them. With perceptions, thoughts, and lasting impacts.
The government has also implemented changes in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport - now facing a budget reduction of up to 40%. Unless supported by private benefactors, very few funding options seem readily available to the young creative. Artists choose not to study, struggle to rent studios, and must learn to manage their own PR and sales strategies.
This generation responds with a return to the collective spirit. Artists, curators, and writers turn back to the collaborative mentality, where reassurance, advice, and interaction can be found outside of the institution structure. Our voice seems more socially driven, turning back to a value system and away from blatant commerciality. Events like the Melt! Festival present a unified collective of artistic talent, driven by shared creative objectives.
We can see a return to the importance of content and narrative. Perhaps the ephemerality of our day-to-day habits has created a need for authenticity, a way to counteract impermanence with a sense of grounding and foundation? Sustainability and substantiation are back in fashion: the art of this generation has a responsibility to respond and remedy the decadence of the previous one.
Process art can be interpreted as a similar reaction, where studio manufacturing and mass production no longer hold their own. Process art is personal: it listens to the city, to mediums, sensations, and perceptions to create works that can only be formulated by one maker, in a distinctive, individual, and inimitable interpretation of their surroundings. It aligns itself with the values of this new generation, one that finds validation in the genuine object rather than the replica. In a world where pictures are most easily accessible on screens, process art gives back texture and integrity to aesthetic.
This art encourages interaction with more than just a display monitor, where the digital is, of course, incorporated, but also augmented and considered. We are no longer defined by analytics and computer generated visuals: emphasis and importance now lie in the immersive and the interactive.
We crave experiences and, despite our reliance on it, a reaction to the uniformity of technology: same iPhone – same way of living. Art, like music and literature, gives us new forms of identity, new belief systems, and definitive templates of classification and categorisation that lend order and reassurance to our various character traits and opinions. Tell me what you respond to and I will tell you who you are.
Art may not be able to solve issues in itself, but it undoubtedly raises awareness and pushes the boundaries of our perspectives. It helps us see beyond the constraints of our limited, individual perceptions. It is important to understand the underlying importance of art in society - we cannot risk losing this influence. We must invest in artists and artistic movements to ensure the cultural credibility of our generation.
This article was previously published on MTArt's website.