Conflict And Change

China's FIRST McDonald's

China’s FIRST McDonald’s (Photo credit: flickr.Marcus)

Today’s Daily Prompt: “It’s the year 2113. A major museum is running an exhibition on life and culture as it was in 2013. You’re asked to write an introduction for the show’s brochure.”

As we look back a hundred years to 2013 we shouldn’t be surprised to see cultures in conflict across the globe and new technologies changing the way of life. It has been so throughout history.

2013 was in the middle of two major cultural conflicts.

China was emerging as the financial and strategic powerhouse for most of the world while the US, who had dominated the 20th century, was thrashing itself to death; turning itself inwards and increasingly spending time arguing about the colours of the deckchairs while ignoring the iceberg buried in the bow. It was going through the same process as the British a century before them.

At the same time Anglo-European “democratic” christianity found itself still cleaning up the ruin it had made of the Middle East and it’s relationships with the more theocratic governments steeped in the Muslim religion. Despite an “Arab Spring”, where the people of the Middle East attempted to move towards a more secular and democratic culture, radical extremes fell back into power.

At the time the major technological changes were electronic. The impact of the invention of the semiconductor in the mid twentieth century had by this time moved out of business and into almost all aspects of the personal. The biggest changes were seen in personal communications with an increasing percentage of the population carrying an always on compute/communicate device in their pocket.

The impact on art was incredible. This was the height of the divide between high Art with a capital A and the more public art. Public visual art (mainly in the form of 2D video) was designed for the mass, massively popular and delivered in any number of ways. This was the high point for TV, which delivered public art, public entertainment and information, enough of each for most people. Sometimes it was delivered in larger public venues, the ‘cinema’, but on an artistic level this differentiation was increasingly moot.

This period was also the one where the mass delivery of media was changing to more personally tailored models delivered to an individuals compute/communications device and frequently people had two or three of them of varying size and function.

Then there was the art of the so called “artist” which was seen only in galleries and (according to the cognoscenti) could only be appreciated through a lens of high culture so that it was seen by almost no one.

So the really interesting art of this period, as this exhibition shows, is that public art. There was a great deal of it produced by the US or under US control but to focus only on that would be to give a disservice to the major output of both India and China.

Almost totally missing in the artistic world at this time was the influence of the Middle East and the Muslim religion. We can probably put this down to the almost total domination of mass media in the 20th century by the United States and the constant conflict between the two cultures in the late twentieth and early twenty first century. The art of the area rarely moved out against the biases of this conflict.

It’s difficult to talk of life at this point. People were living underta huge diversity of conditions at the time with parts of the world steeped in technology and plenty while large amounts of the world was suffering under one, if not more of the Four Horseman; Famine, War, Pestilence and Death. Even in moderately peaceful India and China there was a huge dichotomy. In the “Lifestyle” gallery you can see an iPhone which sold well in India while its cost would have been the entire budget of a vast number of families for months.

Please go through the rooms of the gallery and appreciate the diversity of 2D video in the period from 2008 to 2018. We have focussed on 2013 but provided art from the same period to provide a better context for the art of that particular year.

On a personal level I’d like to point you towards my favourite pieces, don’t miss either the Pixar room or the HBO Gallery. Once you’ve done that make sure you check out the Bollywood and Hong Kong floors to see the extremely talented, prolific and totally different output of the emerging artistic powerhouses of India and China.

A Disgusting State of Affairs

The U.S. amazes me. You have a country of great vigour and influence, huge energy and great riches. I enjoy my visits to my family in the US.

At the same time it disgusts me. A country of huge divisions where some of the richest people in the world happily pick their way through abject poverty every day. A country with some of the best health care in the world yet far too many can either not afford or bankrupt themselves and their families for that same care. A country where schools and universities have world wide reputations for excellence and students are crippled with huge student loans to pay for it or cannot afford it.

Then there is the final disgust. A country which has gun violence levels commensurate with failed nation states in Africa such as Sierra Leone. A nation which in ten years had as twice as many mass schooling shooting as the rest of the world combined.

And what do you do? Every time you wring your hands and shed your crocodile tears and change nothing. You allow the entire debate to be suborned by vested interests. You allow your politicians to be bought and sold by influential but small lobby groups. Your argue over your Second Amendment. You even allow your Christian lobby to use the massacre of twenty children under the age of ten as an excuse in favour of school prayer. I’m not the only person to think so, this article The Newtown massacre: Fake tears, in The Economist agrees with me.

What could you do? In 1996 Australia had major shooting massacre at Port Arthur that horrified our nation, just as the US is now horrified, just as the US has been horrified by previous tragic shootings. The difference is that Australia did something, our Federal government dragged our State governments to the table and sweated out a national agreement that banned a large number of types of guns, including handguns. You can read a quite good guide to gun politics in Australia on WikiPedia.

Continue reading