Here are my notes on an essay I read recently by art theorist Boris Groys entitled 'The Weak Universalism.' I'd love to get some discussion going about this essay and/or the Bruce Sterling essay I link to further down.
Groys: Artists are messengers of atemporality: alert temporal culture of approaching atemporality
usually harnessed modern technology (technology compresses time) & exaggerate to illustrate, democratic methods
two kinds of images: Strong and Weak
Strong: Contemporary. Visceral. Appealing. Historical. Culturally Relevant.
Weak: second meaning, subtle, driven by technology, unfamiliar. Weak images function regardless of temporality.
weak images turn strong over time if popular; otherwise both types fade and die. Consider Fountain (sigh)
Early A-G artists sought to locate weak signs and incorporate them into images to make atemporal images. 'signs of the times.'
Different groups did this in different ways: Kandinsky etc. w/ abstraction, Dadaists w/ collage, Constructivists w/ photography, Modernists with Jungian soul-searching, Postmodernists w/ appropriation and conceptualization
as time has gone by (acc. to Groys) temporality has become more compressed. I would argue that this compression is due not simply to technology, but specifically to our ability to record and share information.
Groys: this affects how we produce art and objects - less fads, more skepticism, turnover. We approach what he calls 'atemporality.'
Bruce Sterling says we have reached 'early atemporality.' two cultural modes operating - 'gothic high tech' castle of existing physical structure and 'favela chic,' bazaar of avant garde (internet). We know we are here, but we don't know what the rules are, much less how to challenge them. I say then that the A-G is spread thin and is hard to spot.
Atemporality and culture fragmentation are due to recording technology & widespread communication networks. fragmentation means that it is harder than ever for the A-G to (a) be cohesive and (b) communicate with cultures about atemporality. Weak and strong signs differ per culture.
Atemporality and fan cultures mean that we have more strong images than ever - everything is strong in some context. Fan culture amplifies itself as it becomes more distinct from other fan cultures. So it doesn't make sense for art market to follow A-G working on what weak signs remain - strong images sell, have always sold. Weak gestures are hidden within the strong. Now that everything approaches becoming strong, no reason for market to exhaustively look for talent.
Artists have turned toward another use of art now that the internet allows images to become strong and ubiquitous quickly - a tool for communication. this use of art focuses on the creation and manipulation of the absence and presence of strong images in order to convey attitudes and concepts (weak signs existing in juxtaposition/recontextualization). often used in conjunction with text, image macros, memes and illuminated text sets mood in conversations.