The purpose of this paper is to examine modern art, in particular that which is referred to as "apocalypse art" and further to examine the interactions between art and technology. Specifically this paper will look at the new dimensions that technology has contributed to the rendering of art as well as what contribution or impact that art has rendered to technology.
The methodology for this study is through examination of several of the artists as well as scholars who are in some way interconnected in this process of producing apocalypse art.
The question that seems to weigh on the minds of those who view the modern "apocalypse" art exhibits asks:
Has this artist attempted to achieve the effect of shock or is the artist attempting to convey some deeper truth?"
London's Art Gallery featured an exhibit entitled "Apocalypse" in the year of 2000. Reports were many but the theme of the reports were pretty much the same which was that of shock, ridicule and disbelief that the artist could take themselves as "real." Reuters News, London, description of the exhibit was:
giant sculpture in the shape of a swastika, a model of the pope being crushed by a meteorite, and a large pile of rubbish." (Reuters News 2000)
The report coming from CNN stated that:
An art exhibition featuring a model of the Pope struck dead by a meteorite, tortured miniature figures and a video depicting domestic violence is set to bring fresh controversy to London's Royal Academy of Art. (CNN News 2000)
I. Joe-Peter Witkin: Exploitive, Sensitive and Intuitive
Art can be said to be the demonstration of a set of ideas, beliefs or even ideals, as well as a conscious moments when realization of that which is sublime is awakened. When these moments, after having risen to the sublime, sweep low to the materialistic in hopes of finding definition the result can be somewhat alarming or shocking. For example, The work of Witkin has been labeled as "exploitive." However, Witkin is described as "intuitive" and "sensitive."
The strangeness or "twists" that is revealed in the work of Witkin can most likely be traced to a two-year stint in army combat photography, having been a witness to a decapitation as a child, and finally the unusual sexual experience with a hermaphrodite. It is said of Witkins' work that upon viewing a sort of "hypnotic type of fascination coupled with a feeling of repulsion" is experienced. The works of Joe-Peter Witkin are described as:
Impossible to dismiss"..."physically deformed, masked and unclothed" and further in description of his subjects, who have been called, of questionable moral contexts, having arms and heels jammed up exterior regions and other similarly shocking elements and oddities in setting either macabre of romantic.
It is not easy for the viewer to understand exactly what Witkin is attempting to demonstrate or convey through these fascinating and yet repulsive art forms. Witkin is a firm believer that he has a lifelong quest, indeed a search for his own personal grail, with full belief that search is parallel to and in union with his work. The amount of contemplation generated by the artists' work directly mirrors his internal growth according to Chris Buck and Christine Alvizakis in their interview of Witkin as they state:
Considering how Witkin's images resist categorization, perhaps the one single truth that can be said of all of them, is this: in every Witkin image there's something that won't let a viewer go, something that won't allow us to dismiss what we see or to completely accept it. We leave a Wittiness image with the feeling that significance has been glimpsed out of the corner of the eyes, although the eye has been fully engaged in a bold frontal sight. " (Charles Mann)
II. The Technological Advancements and the Contribution to Apocalyptic Creation:
The new technology of today, in the minds of many individuals, is directly connected with the "beast system" that is predicted throughout many cultural and religious settings as being the final or apocalyptic ruling system. The ruling system to which this refers is that of the New World Order system that is prophetically stated to be in power in the predicted final days of earth under rule of the New World Order with the Antichrist at the helm.
Until the dawn of the computer age individuals could only contemplate in horror what the "mark of the beast" could refer to. However, with the advent of RFID and other satellite tracking chips, the mystery is solved in the minds of many and they are able to pinpoint exactly what the prophecy was speaking of. To further advance the "apocalyptic atmosphere" among many in society, the marriage of the technological with the artistic has created what is known as a hologram which is the embodiment of the ability to portray God in the heavens or whatever the minds of men can conjure to display. A hologram is an image that can be juxtaposed into thin air creating an image that appears to be real to all that view this image. The current school of thought appears to think that this is a ploy that could be used against those nations of the world who do not have the capacity to know the difference due to lack of knowledge either through lack of education or other factors of their environment. This fear for primitive less fortunate nations of the world has created an apocalyptic dimension that was unrealized times past. The specific fear in this instance is that these primitive societies will be fooled by the application of a hologram into giving away their land, heritage or perhaps even their very soul based on the belief that the second coming has arrived and their departure from earth is imminent.
There is a feeling of genuine fear that this device will be used either to create the appearance of an apocalypse or indeed to bring the apocalypse into being. To further muddy the water, most individuals are aware that drones, cyborg-type machines, or other entities with artificial intelligence are not piloting airplanes in security zones such as the border of the U.S. And Mexico. The drones which are flying in the "not so friendly" skies of the modern world create real fear in the minds of individuals who have thoughtfully asked he question:
What if one of these machines decides to drop the bomb on us?
Whatever the case may be, it is the sudden and earth shaking reality that all things spoken in prophecy now have the potential to take place spurring the atmosphere of the "apocalyptic" to new heights. Orwells' 1984 is not such a far-fetched idea in this age of advances in science that are not by steps but by leaps of light years through hyperspace in the rapid advancement the modern society has been witness to. Another deep-seated fear of individuals that further compels the thought of apocalyptic nature is the fear that computers will replace the workforce making man obsolete in relation to the individual's occupation. This fear, often voiced since the dawn of the computer age is fast becoming a reality perpetuating the "apocalyptic" train of thought as well as interjecting this thought continually into the "art" aspect of society which is an integral and vital part of the expression of mankind through art. The culmination of so many fears that individuals hold has become the fertile ground to nurture the seeds of apocalyptic expectations creating a perception that renders apocalyptic visions, dreams, and ultimately creations within the realm of art.
III. Ascott's Explains the Art-Technology Relationship of Techno-Seduction:
According to Roy Ascott, pioneer of cybernetics, telematics as well as interactive media in art, the simple truth is that there exists "a love affair between art and technology." Roy is an "artist" as well as "theorist." He is a driven visionary who has shown his work internationally. His most recent work is "Telematic Embrace: Visionary Theories of Art Technology and Consciousness. Ascotts' research is concentrated toward art and the "technology of consciousness.
Ascott, the director for the Centre for Advanced Inquiry in the Interactive Arts of the University of Wales College, in Newport, U.K. As well being on Leonardo's editorial board defines the new art as a Reconfiguration of ourselves and our culture leading to cyberception." Cyberception, according to Ascott is a:
Technologically extended cognition and perception" or "art called to the technology of consciousness."
Ascott explains that the high tech computing in today's global society combined with the many applications in computing and communications and this being done on a global basis via the Internet in actuality can be viewed as the Internet being a "type of hypercortex." Further Ascott explains that it is not merely a mechanistic expression of art within the realm of the "Techno-Seduction" but indeed artists:
are trying to seduce the machine: we wish to embrace it with our ways of thinking…