How can we still believe that the artist’s main purpose is to make sense of the world around us? In the words of Castoriadis, how is art a window on chaos, the chaos of the world, the chaos of meaning? Underlying this notion is the idea that with one fell swoop, communication technologies ensure a democratic sharing of knowledge that goes hand in hand with universal access to culture.
This notion is what calls into question the place and purpose of visual and media arts. We must dispel the myth that new knowledge and communication networks are created in the wake of new technologies. The computer created the possibility of new explorations and digital creations, but did it make each of us a potential creator, relegating artists to the archives of history?
It is not the first time technology has arrived in the world of art. In 1936, Walter Benjamin tried to draw political and aesthetic lessons from the “mechanization” of the artistic process: he spoke of the loss of the author’s aura and the unique work of art, and he predicted that uniqueness would be replaced by ubiquity. Today, the computer is potentially both the best and the least appropriate tool for artistic expression. Until now, no single tool enabled us to produce and process sound, images, text and formatting at the same time. One person is now capable of results that previously could not have been achieved without a superhuman effort.
But we must not forget that this machine does only what it can, not necessarily what we want it to. If we destroy the relationship between the concept and the tool, between the creator and the computer, the creative act could be lost. Many creators are aware of this challenge: Bruce Elder, Vera Frenkel and Istvan Kantor to name but a few. Their works test the limits of technology, and in so doing, question the artificiality of the machine world. Contemporary art does not have to be mired in the technological swamp; it can take hold of new tools and use them to their fullest.
This attitude is a must in a society that risks being lost in the illusion that interconnectivity will magically enable us to break down the barriers that separate us and that “naturally” bring us together.
There are still solitudes that need to be broken down, and for that, we need artists to decipher the chaos in the world. Beauty and art are essential in the relationship between human beings and the enigma of meaning in the universe.
I hope Canadians become more and more aware and have a clearer understand of how vital arts and culture are to the development of a healthy and harmonious society. I also hope the traditional mass media allow visual and media artists to play a much bigger role. In order for artists to influence society, they must have a presence in newspapers, on television, in schools, in our history, as well as in our political debates.
As a filmmaker, I firmly believe in the power of art in society. I believe in its socialization capacity, and in the need for artists to take hold of all means of expression at their disposal. This is the best way to combat indifference and barbarism and to take down borders. Art is a powerful tool for communication and socialization. It is the antidote to narrow nationalisms and the most beautiful way of breakin