Thursday, September 11, 2008

Nodal Time

This entire post is a speculation on what might possibly be happening now, it's an open topic, subject to debate.

For a few years now I have been mulling over what the novelist William Gibson described as a "nodal point in history." The idea of a new century, not to mention a new millennium, piqued my interest as a focal point for some kind of change.

Alas, this simple numerical transition to a solid number, just counting from one year to the next, became mired in the prospective consequences of a bit glitch. It seemed that early computer programmers never thought the millennium would change. The incipient uncertainty of wrong dates and garbage trucks filled with sand as defense against some amorphous threat put a psychological damper on the millennial transition.

Still, I had initially expected there would be an optimistic energized feeling as we entered the new millennium. I was wrong, as it turned out the transition was a source of anxiety which was further heightened by the tragic events of September 11, 2001.

Clearly 911 became a nodal point in time, there is "before 911" and "after 911". That clear morning the course of world events ricocheted, taking a new oblique path and future history. Looking back form this point seven years later it is hard to imagine what might have been.

Cyclic Pulse

The culture, society, moves forward with cyclical rhythms. Attitudes and anxieties ebb and flow as opinions change slowly over time. Events like 911 become spikes, emotional semaphores in time. Others smear time, slightly blurring the transition between 'then' and 'now'. This is the nodal time, the window for the slow cycle, one close to two generations in length, and what I am interested in here.

This change appears to be happening now, we are in the middle of nodal time. So what is happening? Everything is changing from 'before' to 'after', from "worn out" to "new", new information produces new ideas and in retrospect we can describe the distinctions. Of course everything is always changing, but it is occurring at a primary level where it is visible as incremental evolution over time. Every once and awhile things change in a way which seems sudden after the fact.

Observations . . . . .

This type of cultural change does not seem to be precipitated by a single event, rather it is a conflux of multiple events and discoveries that are viewed with a new generational perspective. It is not my intention to make predictions here only to examine points of inquiry, points which can be expected change.

Rhythm and Blues
Music is the pulse of this change within the culture. Musical forms have long life-spans within the culture and evolve from simple to complex presentation forms over time. Changes revert to the simple form, the trio, quartet or quintet...

"For playing electric violin on desolation row." [1]

Twenties American jazz riffs flow through to big bands that end a culture's show. The transition meander crosses real life's culture, songs the blues singers know. Then came rock and roll. The sixties were nodal.

It takes two generations to wear music into the exquisite esoterica of a classical form. It is a nodal time again now.

Popular music must change, to find its own intimacy within youth's history. It is time for a whole new generation, separate from past generations, that break once every fifty years. The world is theirs. This change is happening now, as always produced by Disney, sponsored by Wrigley's and sung by Katy Perry to their dismay.

The whole bet is on a change in popular music, the identity of the beat, the iPod, and Pandora Radio.

Cultural Homogeneity
This is the century when China becomes an equal player in the world and its culture. It is doubtful the coming out party at the 2008 Olympics in China will be surpassed in this century. Whatever you think, China is an equal player on the world stage at all levels.

In the past century, economic changes, transformations from the agricultural, to the industrial, to the information ages, all strongly influenced nodal changes in culture. These economic events evolved from the local, the farm, to the non local global influences we see today. Non-local, it's vector aims towards the achievement of homogeneity, with the acceptance of cultural identity. It is one world.

Global Warming
It is one world. What you do there, affects me here. What I do here, affects you there. It is one world, it doesn't matter if global warming is true, what matters is, what I do here, affects you there. An attitude changing concept.

Barack Obama
Race is an issue to put behind us. Obama has the ability to energize the idealism of youth in a moment of national despair. It is the idealism to seek change towards a greater good. Recalls, JFK. Keyword, destiny.

Higgs Boson
And whatever other exotic particles they might find at the CERN Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland. A big beautiful instrument which cost significantly less than the Opening of the Olympics is now online as a tool for pure physics. Brian Greene has a nice piece on the physics of CERN in todays NY Times, see: "The Origins of the Universe: A Crash Course" Transdimensional space is another interesting concept under investigation. Parallels: Einstein's theory of relativity.

Architecture lags because it is complex and financially intensive. However, the last shall be first, as the new architecture born in the last century and built in this, leads the visible display of structure into the 21st century. The buildings created for the 2008 Olympics and Dubai represent paradigm shifts in form and construction. Architure: leading the way.

The transition in the fashion industry is already underway, new designers, fresh looks.
Nicolas Ghesquière for Balenciaga.
Kate and Laura Mulleavy for Rodarte.

Museum directors
Part of the reason for these changes is simply demographic, the baby boomers who have held these top posts, are now retiring. Recent changes here in NYC:

Thomas P. Campbell will replace Philippe de Montebello who is retiring after 31 years as director at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Richard Armstrong is slated to be the new director for Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. (Still to be announced, source Crains)

Kathy Halbreich as Associate Director in charge of contemporary art at MOMA.

The housing bust starting in 2007 has expanded into a full fledged economic crisis so complex that its resolution will have significant changes on how we view Capitalism in the next century.

Visual Art
Back to basics, but new basics. I am looking for an art to serve the new millennium, to re-define its culture, to question its philosophy, to re-examine its images. What we thought of as art is about to be reconfigured by a new generation born after 1985, raised in a world of electronic exotica, instant access to information, and avatars.

I cannot emphasize how strongly I sense this generational change, this nodal point in time. It has some of the characteristics of the early 1960's but of course will be expressed differently.

Welcome to the new millennium.

[1] Bob Dylan, from "Desolation Row", "Highway 61 Revisited", 1965


Balhatain said...

"What we thought of as art is about to be reconfigured by a new generation born after 1985, raised in a world of electronic exotica, instant access to information, and avatars."

I've been thinking about that and have mentioned it on the Myartspace Blog as well. I think that art involving technology and art that physically interacts with viewers will capture the attention of that generation. I just hope there is still interest in traditional works when everything is said and done. Still, I think great art, no matter how it is created, will reach people no matter what they have been born into, so to speak.

George said...

I have avoided making predictions about how art will evolve. I do believe that modern technologies, information technologies, have had a significant influence early in the lives of a new generation of artists.

I believe that most artists are aware of these technological developments and they become part of the underlying environment which influences how their work is brought into existence.

The current generation, those born after 1985, have marinated in these new technologies all their live. This most likely means they will find certain approaches or solutions which intuitively incorporate answers supplied by the technology. They will just do it, without making a big deal of it.

The use of traditional media can serve to emphasize the focus of an artists intent away from the media itself, towards something else. Of the traditional media, painting is the most primal. It is symbolic expression expressed by mark making. New technologies might affect how paintings are executed but what you see exists in the world of new and evolving symbolic content.

Hans said...

It's a great time for comedy though, "The fundamentals of our Economy are strong" (McCain believes) Short video and very funny