We are now in the future. It’s official. ATMs with push-button screens now accept up to 50 checks at once, they scan them in and tell you the individual amounts as well as the total amount that you’ll be depositing. Soda machines, also with push-button screens, allow you to pick your choice of soda, then your additive syrup (my flavored bubbly water can have more flavor?!), which then funnels through a single nozzle, being both efficient and exciting. Three dimensional movies and TVs are taking over and there is digital media everywhere you turn. You can’t escape the flashing lights and midi noises, that surround the world in airports, office buildings, stores, even in our pockets. Does this remind you of Back to the Future II or what? The only thing we’re missing is the hover board.
So, in this futuristic and digital world, how do the arts possibly stand a chance of, well, standing out? Advertisement has survived with a new string of nonsense words like: “Technology crystals lock in the flavor!” “Organic All-Natural Flash Pasteurized” and, my favorite, “Zero Trans Fats!” While the new wordy slogans for the same old products may be easy to see through, this doesn’t hurt their market as people still feel compelled to buy things like gum, juices, and chips. The arts, however, are having a more difficult time evading extinction.
In competition with technology and digitization, it seems that each genre is frantically trying anything it can in order to stay on the radar. They’re even trying on each others’ shoes. Art has transformed into performance and street art, dabbling in the brash and in-your-face aspects that so strongly characterize theater. Theater explores movement pieces where the actors are wordless and clothing-less, acting like they are now dancers and models from canvases rather than realistic human characters. Music becomes a conglomerate of funk, hip-hop, alternative, world, you-name-it, and therefore interbreeding with itself to create a new species. Hollywood is copycatting stage-style theater as it creates remake after remake; something that was done for eons on a live stage, new because it’s now on film!
Where can the arts possibly go from here? Is there no hope? Will it collapse into a distant part of history, or worse, into a forgotten dusty relic?
Oh, wait! The arts have always struggled. Shakespeare was dirt poor, and actors were paid virtually nothing. Van Gogh cut off his ear and still wasn’t famous until after he was dead. And no one in their right mind studies art or theater or music in college, unless they want to become a teacher, because they know it’s not a lucrative venture. So that must mean that there is a future for the arts, or at the very least an existence that won’t stray from what it’s used to dealing with.
Perhaps there will be fewer famous oil paintings, less traditional theater productions, and no more advertised down-on-the-farm blue grass jams, but there will still be representations of visual and audio ideas in one format or another. The ideas will of course stay the same as the ones that have buzzed around for generations, but “Now With Zero Trans Fats!”
In fact, one of my favorite theater companies, centered on the Stanislavski method, is putting on MacBeth this month. Check it out: http://www.synetictheater.org/