Technology his ‘Campbell’s soup tins’ and ‘Coca Cola

Technology
has advanced how we create, appreciate, and conceptualize art consistently
through the past century, rapidly changing the way contemporary artists reach
their audience and revolutionize what we experience today in galleries and
museums. Technology and art have been able to coexist symbiotically as tools
which have resulted in giving artists the ability to reshape and mold the
society we live in though fashion, creative media, and entertainment art forms
such as music and television. The ability for a work to be shared and spread across social
platforms on the internet enables artists to reach an audience across the
globe. Art is able to influence society by changing public
opinion, by raising questions we ought to be thinking about and by questioning
the notion of the internet being an uncontrollable space allowing users to
share and repost information and work instantaneously. In his
book, The Shallows, Carr argues that Internet culture is vastly becoming
the ‘master of men’ (Carr, 2011), even to the point
of “rewiring” (Carr, 2011) human brains in
derogatory means. Throughout this essay, I intend to explore how technology
has changed the way in which we practice and distribute art and how in
consequence, this has contributed to a nihilistic society.

 

 

Warhol,
made famous for his bold use of colour and reinvention of mundane objects
within the art form, paved his path of success using the reproduction of
popular advertisements and newspaper headlines as the medium for his work,
experimenting with images from popular culture which saw the conception of his
‘Campbell’s soup tins’ and ‘Coca Cola bottles’. Yet, what made him the
‘American icon’ he is today was his relationship with the ‘ordinary American’,
where Warhol took an object from the everyday and turned that on its head to
create something recognizable for the everyday consumerist American to find
relatable, thus reinforcing Danto’s knowledge that ‘everything,
or nearly everything he made art out of came straight out of the daily lives of
very ordinary Ameri- cans’ (Danto,
2009). Warhol was
able to build his legacy upon capturing the minds of the ‘ordinary American’ by
targeting a large consumer audience, through this, he was able to change his audience’s
idea of art and revolutionize the meaning of what art was, thus challenging the
traditional conventions concerning
the uniqueness, legitimacy, and authorship of art as up
until this era art was unattainable and reserved for the capitalist upper
class. Similarly, Warhol’s transformation of art and personal goal
of making it accessible to all classes of people can be consolidated by his
idea that ‘what’s great about this country is that America started the
tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the
poorest. You can be watching TV and see Coca Cola, and you know that the
President drinks Coca Cola, Liz Taylor drinks Coca Cola, and just think, you
can drink Coca Cola, too.’ (Andy Warhol, 2001)Warhol
was able to relate to a wide audience by manipulating large existing companies
and power brands such as Coca Cola by piggybacking onto their widespread fame
in order to communicate to everyone as equals, reinforcing his ideology of ‘a coke
is a coke and no amount of money can get you a better coke than the one the bum
on the corner is drinking. All the cokes are the same and all the cokes are
good. Liz Taylor knows it, the President knows it, the bum knows it, and you
know it.’ (Andy Warhol, 2001) If we
looked at capitalism the way Warhol looks at the Coca Cola brand we can better
understand how Capitalism itself has become a cultural brand. This Cultural
brand invests us in powerful stories that assuage threats to our identities and
empower us to overcome social divides. As a cultural brand that everyone from
the richest to the poorest can consume because of its ability to resolve
tensions experienced within different social worlds.

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By working
with mass produced images, plastered into newspapers and magazines, Warhol was
able to redefine the subliminal pressure that large companies put society under,
therefore supporting Hughes’s idea that ‘mass
production strips every image of its singularity, rendering it schematic and quickly
identifiable, so that it resembles a sign. A sign is a command. Its message
comes all at once.’ (Bellamy, 1995, p.
164)

Warhol did
not allow himself to be limited to one form of media and instead explored many.
He utilized the technology available to him during his popularity, investing
himself into screen printing, photography and even the earliest form of digital
painting. To some extent this shows how Warhol was able to use
technology to his advantage and revolutionize what we perceive as art. Similarly, Warhol was always an avid photographer, declaring his
photographs were his visual diary, showing a glamorous aristocratic lifestyle
as well as popularizing photography as an art form with John Baldessari stating
eloquently ‘He helped to bring photo-imagery under the umbrella of
art – to deghettoize it’. (Baldessari, 2016) This is in keeping with Sven-Olov Wallenstein’s thesis
‘Art and Technology’ due to ‘the idea of
the subjective and expressive quality of image making, and implicitly the
hierarchy between the artes liberals and artes mechanicae that still informs
the concept of “fine art,” underwent a profound upheaval.’ (Wallenstein,
2010, p. 14)
Photography was a debated medium in the
fine arts world due it’s uncanny ability to capture such grand moments in the
world instantaneously through the click of a button, which raised the question
of what is considered an art form. Photography was not officially ‘Fine
art’ as ‘a medium that mechanized image
production could be taken as a dismantling of subjectivity and imagination’. (Wallenstein, 2010, p. 14) Yet, Warhol took a different approach to photography,
 describing it as being a way to capture and record reality in its
simplest form, analyzing the structure of someone as if seeing the human figure
for the first time, with his photography giving us an insight into how Warhol
examined the world. Warhol was able to paste his life into galleries as
mundanely as teens do today on Instagram, with his photography giving us a raw
uncut visage into the life of the incomprehensibly famous, which shows the
innovation Warhol carried as in accordance with Wallenstein’s argument that ‘the emergence of mechanized images being understood
in the opposite way, with photography now in fact liberating the imagination by
redirecting it toward the essentials of art’. (Wallenstein, 2010, p. 14) Moreover, Warhol was
able to reinvent art by considering his consumerist audience and adhering to
create to stimulate and challenge this commodity driven culture such as through
his work ‘Dollar Sign’ in 1982. Warhol’s Dollar Sign emblematizes this zeitgeist, characterized by explosions
in new wealth, by new procedures of mass mediation, the fluid cultural
exchanges between high art and mass culture and the fusion of art, money and
celebrity. ‘Warhol regarded the public sphere as a network providing life
support for his images and ideas.’ (How Andy Warhol made art from money,
2014)
Which leads onto the point that ‘there
is no single technological change of which modernist painting would be the
result, rather we should attempt to grasp a whole technological milieu in which
certain components could be interpreted as incitements for a rethinking of art.’ (Wallenstein, 2010)

 

 

Now if we
look ahead towards the future, specifically at Artificial Intelligence, defined
as a freethinking computer of human construct with its own cognitive thinking
and development with theoretically unbounded potential, it can be used as an
invention with intended purpose to streamline the workplace and to automate
processes, quickly advancing and changing the world that we live in. This can be evidenced by “a 2013 study by
researchers at Oxford University which posited that as many as 47% of all jobs
in the United States are at risk of “computerization.” And many respondents in
a recent Pew Research Center canvassing of technology experts predicted
that advances in robotics and computing applications will result in a net
displacement of jobs over the coming decades – with potentially profound
implications for both workers and society as a whole.” (Osborne, 2013, p.
1) Consequently, the shocking statistics beg the
question of what room will be left for us? If in just over a decade large
companies could eliminate the need for tax
accountants/preparers, telemarketers and freight agents, being deemed as most
likely to be replaced by robots in the coming years holding a 0.99 probability
according to a publication by Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael A. Osborne and so on what occupations will the younger society
be left training for with the relationship between wages and educational
attainment exhibiting a “strong negative
relationship with an occupation’s probability of computerization.” (Osborne, 2013, p. 45) Through the years, technology and art have been ‘inexorably linked’ (Gamboa) with humans formally being the craftsman and
 technology the tool as ‘humans
build not only for function but also with an eye to form.’ (Gamboa). However, for AARON this notion has been turned on its
head as AARON is one of the original art-creating programs, created by the
University of California San Diego professor Harold Cohen. AARON uses
algorithms to create its art, improving year after year as Cohen would teach it
more difficult or complex techniques.
“AARON paints whatever it wants within the confines of its knowledge, driven
only by its limited version of an imagination and not at any point instructed
explicitly by Cohen or anybody else.” Though
what effect does this painting robot have on society? Programs like AARON and
‘the painters fool’ have creative stimulating intent in their work and as time
passes these programs will advance and evolve hand in hand with art. Already
having “certain intelligent behaviors
associated with creativity, such as skill, appreciation, imagination, learning,
intention, and reflection.”

 

In Sarah Gamboa’s thesis on
the ‘Influence of Technology in Art Appreciation and Sales as A Factor in The
Sustainability of The Retail Art Industry’ Gamboa states from once being defined as a painting or a sculpture, ‘”art” has also undergone a rebirth; it now evokes
images of digital art as well as classical paintings and sculpture.’ (Gamboa, p. 3) By
consistently going against the norm, art is able to develop and innovate,
forming the ability for a variety of talents all around the world to share
their work together by utilizing technology, thus enabling the art community ‘to
connect and gain inspiration from each other.’ (Gamboa, p. 4) To some respect newer AI in art is able to do just
that, the ‘Painters Fool’ by Simon Colton was granted an ‘imagination’ (Moss, 2015) which gave the
machine the ability to “interpret ideas more loosely” (Moss, 2015) and to “evolve its
scene depictions without necessarily having any specific reference image” (Moss, 2015) and then the ability
to “paint with intent.” (Moss, 2015) One of example of
this is when the program downloaded a news story on the war in Afghanistan and
recognized keywords which it used to search for relevant images on the site
Flickr. The Painting Fool then developed a ‘painterly rendition of these images
in a collage, juxtaposing a fighter plane with an explosion, a family, an
Afghan girl, and a field of war graves.’ (Moss, 2015) Thus showing the
already vastly advancing AI capabilities, proving itself to be more advanced
than AARON in respects to creativity already.

On the
other end of the spectrum, looking at AI with hope and potential, evidence
provided by Daniel Lacalle, an Economist points towards
that if “technology really destroyed jobs, there would be no work
today for anyone.” (Lacalle, 2017)and in fact,
that the “technological revolution we have seen in the past 30 years
has been unparalleled and exponential” (Lacalle, 2017) thus
pointing toward the fact that there are more jobs and better salaries. The best
example of this is the German region of Baviera, “one of the parts
of the world with a higher degree of technification and robotization, and with
a 2.6% unemployment. An all-time low. The same can be said about South Korea,
and the world in general.” (Lacalle, 2017) –  So
perhaps by celebrating and continuing the development of technology into bigger
more exciting things we can endeavor towards a brighter future. “Predicting
the future typically means extrapolating the past. It often fails to anticipate
breakthroughs. But it’s precisely those unpredictable breakthroughs in
computing that could have the biggest impact on the workforce.” (Thompson, 2014)

 

Through this essay I have explored the work of Andy
Warhol and AARON to investigate the conundrum of technology in art, I have evaluated
the effects that previous revolutionary technology had within the arts and have
looked toward the future and what it might hold. Inevitably, Technology in art
has an undeniable correlation and a massive impact on society, more than one
might first believe. Because of technology in art, everywhere we go we are
being persisted by corporate brands churning the capitalist machine through
mass advertisements. From due research and analysis, there is no definitive
answer as to whether AI is going to cause the end to all life as we know it,
with giants in the technology industry such as Elon Musk
, the CEO of
SpaceX and Tesla, proclaiming AI presents a “fundamental risk to the existence of human civilization” (Musk, 2017), won’t be but for now we can look
toward the near future with excitement as new ways to create, share and sell
art continue to innovate, for instance, through exciting new projects
consisting of ‘Google Art Project, Artsy.com, Amazon Art, Artsicle, and various
phone applications’, there is no doubt that artists
have many more ways to create innovative and inspired work which can easily be
shared around the world now more than ever, which is reflected by jobs in the
creative industries rising by 5 per cent in 2016, compared to the 1.2 per cent
increase in the wider UK workforce. Almost 2 million people are now employed in
the UK creative industries, with 3.04m jobs in the wider creative economy which
also includes creative roles in non-creative organizations. This points toward
a more affluent society circulating the creative industries, which is due to
the need for companies to advertise across more platforms than ever before. As
a result, Technology is surrounding our very existence, intertwined with our
daily lives and art is at the forefront of this innovation, with new ways to
create and experience art, society is quickly changing.

 

 

Bibliography

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