I went to the Darwin base of the synchronous Sydney/Darwin launch and got a copy of the Portals program. One sentence about the artwork “Distributed Empire” by artists Justin Clemens, Christopher Dodds and Adam Nash has been resonating with me ever since:
“In the age of global networked data, nearly everyone in the developed world has signed away their rights to privacy in exchange for the privilege of tirelessly working, for free, to produce content for a handful of massive global data-capitalist corporations.”
It makes me think how percipient was McLuhan, with his concept of the endless recycling of “cliche” (From Cliche to Archetype, 1970) as well as Jean Baudrillard with his notion of Simulacra and Simulation (1981), signs endlessly circulating without any meaning or purpose but for this endless exchange.
It also got me thinking about today’s seemingly fertile “art” scene – about how content is invariably being celebrated, often in the absence of (what McLuhan would call) “art”. Seduction of the audience (again, see Baudrillard) has apparently become the artist’s primary role in this global economy of “content”.
It may be harder than ever today, hacking through the forests and streams of content proliferating on social media and content sharing sites, to remember the real purpose of the artist in the McLuhanist sense of staying attuned to fluctuations in the media-environment and effectively reporting these back to enable clearer perception and control of that environment.