All human knowledge takes the form of interpretation.
— Walter Benjamin
While curating this issue, I found myself considering what art is, and how it means, in a very particular way. In an era of fake news, misinformation, mass equation of opinion with fact, and the shadow of global disaster looming ever nearer, ever more often, it seems like an obvious question. What space is there for art, for discovery, for aesthetic joy, when it sometimes feels like we are teetering on the brink of self-extinction? While it would be simple to say that this is an aberrant time, or a disparate set of unconnected global misfortunes, I think it is, in fact, more complex, a cultural evolution.
The question it occurs to me to ask then, is not how art means now (as if it means differently now from how it might have meant in a different time or space) but how it means in relation to how we are different, to how our perceptions (both individual and socialized) have shifted with the evolution of technological advancement and increasing globalization. I would like to consider what perception means, and, more importantly, how it is defined and constrained—and by extension what the work of art means—in an age of technological self-production (this is a concept derived from the work of Walter Benjamin, in particular, his infamous essay, “The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility/ The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction”). When every expression, however mundane, is crafted for an audience, purposed for Likes, Shares, and Comments, we become not only alienated from “the work of art” as concept, we begin to become alieniated from “self”as concept outside of its technological production. Taken a step further, if art, rather than being considered as disparate expressions of artistic energy, is instead conceived as a mere extension of artist as brand, artist as self-produced image…what happens to the work of art? What happens to the audience? What happens to engagement, to the space of privacy between consumer and work of art, when the artist is visibly inserted and demanding precedence?
I do not have particular answers, nor am I sure that having them matters. I am sure that these questions encourage a taking stock, a serious considering, of how a shifting technological space will inevitably shift perception and meaning for any work of art, and how we, as consumers and artists (and publishers of course!) will inevitably shift as well.
So please, approach these works with open hearts and minds, with room to engage, and space to define, each work of art for yourselves.