Ephemeral is a good word to describe our times. The proliferation and democratization of everything including wealth, transport, communication, and digital media has given John Q. Public everything he needs to create in ways that resemble our once cultural gatekeepers from Homer to Hemingway. Put in a completely different way, what in the world will art historians of the future write about if lasting art is no longer an aspiration of the culture?
Art blogger for the Guardian, Jonathan Jones, picked up on a public art controversy out of Chicago where two recently opened pavilions in Millennium Park have literally been walked all over by the public. One is closed for repairs; the other awaits stanchions for protection. I don’t remember seeing many pavilions while I was in England so maybe Mr. Jones has mistakenly translated pavilion as sculpture in order to make his point, by comparison to an art installation at the Tate Modern, that the more ephemeral public art is, the better. (I wonder if that includes blog posts?)
Right or wrong, it certainly is the trend. The quickening pace of life demands a quick piece of art, or so the logic goes. Lots of people want to be the next big thing, even if that means only 15 minutes of fame (now probably reduced to three or so, and on a website at that). And people should want that, if they want it for the right reasons. Here, try your hand at NPR’s “Three-Minute Fiction” contest. You’re literate after all!
Jones thinks statues of bygone national heroes are “sad and enigmatic” preferring flimsy, destructible public artwork since ephemeral content is more in line with today’s culture than ever before. Admittedly, my ego doesn’t like the idea of our time being “remembered” for having no lasting artistic contribution. Could this really be our contribution: a whole lot of nothing?