Friday, January 11, 2008

The transition year

Now that we’re into 2008, I’m thinking about how son Matt, a culture critic, has suggested that 2007 was really the first year of the 21st century—much in the way 1964, with the advent of the Beatles and protests against the Vietnam War, was the true start of the Sixties, as we know it.

2007 was the year when certain key issues that had previously been on the fringes entered mass consciousness: when it became generally agreed that Bush & Co. are whack and the war in Iraq is a disaster, that universal health care is a necessity rather than a subversive idea, that the pharmaceutical companies don’t have our best interests at heart, and finally, and maybe too late, that what’s happening in the environment is something to be taken seriously. Mass market phenoms such as The Secret and The Da Vinci Code indicate a new hunger for spiritual meaning and a general mistrust of the status quo. 2007 marked the year the Internet became embedded in every area of modern life: corporate publishing now has to compete with blogs, and Radiohead’s much promulgated decision to release their new album on the Internet was no small event. With the demise of the music industry, music is better than ever—because the Internet has taken information and art out of the gatekeeper’s hands and now the audience is calling the shots.

Except in the world of visual art, which seems to have gone backwards, and where everything looks like a retread. 2007 marked the complete takeover of the money people, the year that auctions and art fairs prevailed over gallery exhibitions, the year after which you really can’t get in the door without an MFA. The gatekeepers are everywhere and more powerful than ever. There has to be something new out there, roiling beneath the surface, but what is it? And would we recognize it if we saw it?

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