The Implications of The Technium on The State of Art

the rising scaffolding of society

This is a guest post by Ryan Hogan, a Nashville visual artist. This is part of a week-long series on Art, Science, and Technology. Read the first post here, and the third post here.

Lately, I have been made aware of several art galleries being forced to close down for a variety of reasons. These reasons are ostensibly different, and while many galleries are having to close for economic reasons, ultimately, the attributable force is something entirely greater. The reality of the situation is lamentable, but it is important to recognize the changes that are occurring.

In his book, What Technology Wants, Kevin Kelly coins the term "technium". A serviceable definition for the word is anything that is created by the human mind. This is beyond technology, including everything from society to culture to art. As technology advances, it causes the technium to become more self-organizing. In regards to art, this self-organization allows the technium to begin to dictate the medium and consequently, the medium dictates the experience. This is evidenced more obviously by digital music, ebooks, and streaming videos. The technium has dramatically affected the market but the market is not always ready to accept these changes. Another example is the fact that I can easily disseminate this text through the internet, although, my audience will still remain to be relatively small.

It should go without saying that the way the artist makes art will dramatically change. The mediums and materials will change. Not only will the process change, but consequently, the way art is viewed will change. These are all inevitable. There will be many who will view such changes with ambivalence if not complete aversion.

To be an artist means to be the vanguard. For artists, the technium cannot be resisted. Embrace the technium. Embrace collective commons. Acceptance will help further shape and reshape the technium. Open content will allow for layer upon layer of new metaphor. This is the way to have the most dramatic affect on experience. As an artist, this should be the ultimate objective, to create a multi-sensory visceral experience for the viewer. Artists must accept and adapt to the changes or by definition, they are no longer artists.

The way that art is viewed is already adapting. Startups such as are moving the gallery to a more digital experience. Again, this is evidence of the techinum dictating the medium. Witnessing what impact these new mediums have on the content and the experience can be unnerving, but the experience is also quite exhilarating. Don’t continue to choke the life out of antiquated mediums and commit the same blunder that other industries have committed.

Not to sound trite, but the artist, and the technium, are always in the state of becoming.