There’s a pretty stark generational gap widening in all territories. In China they call the young these days the Balinghou, literally Post-80s, a slightly crude term for the inattentive, selfish crowd of young we’d call millenials. But what one generation sees as destructive, we see as creative, one that shares a cumulative growth, whose conglomerate experience engages with all sorts of previously unknowables. We consume this information. We consume its visuals — so many that one could think the allegory of Plato’s cave might need another look as more people acquire a flame of their own.
We don’t even have to meet and discuss our works in person anymore, though of course to do so is good and helps. The amount we can engage with the works of others has been switched to “as much as you want” and we have conversations that we continue to have only through images that we share with one and all. I wrote in an essay titled Swimming in the Center of the Earth that we are all parcels of a big movement (though it is enormous and virtually beyond total individual comprehension) simply by virtue of being online and sharing our work with each other. Our individual practices speak to the larger whole. Our continuous visual conversations have provided us with our own patterns of visual thinking, and to some degree, we all together are forming collectively distinct patterns of individual aesthetic practices; reflections of our visual thinking, expressed in a formidable backlit spectrum of aesthetics.
There’s a book I’m very excited to read, challenging a lot of what’s for decades been a keystone of peer criticism and the expectation of an art audience. It’s written by Jenny McMahon, titled Art and Ethics in a Material World: Kant’s Pragmatist Legacy, but is at the moment out only in hardcover (Yale is at present the closest library that has it, otherwise it’ll cost you $150). It is, among other things, on the sway collective opinion has on our personal response to art. That, essentially, our confusions of contemporary art are precisely due to its being so variegated, continually unrelated to other works. Your “sensus communis” is, at least in part, an operator in your moral and aesthetic thinking. I think that offers some very interesting insight into what we do when we share work online. There’s a good audio interview with McMahon about the book and I recommend it to anyone interested.
We’ve been applying this thinking to projects like our latest, Issue 3: The United States (2003-2013). The design of the book is basically one long sequence of photographs moving from one environment to another, with features where appropriate. The works had to be selected from over a hundred photographers to make this possible. In other words, we tried to form a path through the the combination of the visual thinking of many. Grace and I will be talking about this and more at our lecture.
[this essay was written in response to the prompt ‘Visual Thinking’ for Cooper Union’s NEO NY, where Grace and I gave a lecture in February]