Visual Culture

Visual Culture

Art has been a critical part of the human experience for thousands of years. A true study of the evolution of art throughout our history could take lifetimes, such is the diversity and variation of our creations. Looking back, art historians have managed to collate the majority of artists, trends and styles under the unique banners of art movements.

There was a time for impressionism, then cubism, and then abstract art ? all told, there are dozens of recognised movements, if not hundreds. Some were defined centuries after their prominence, others in their heyday by the main proponent of the movement itself.

But what happens when there are more artistic tools, techniques, opportunities and ideas than ever before? There?s no single movement which can possibly define our current era of artistic production ? the spectrum of art in the 21st century is too diverse. Right?

Perhaps. But even if we can?t define one exact movement, we can take a look at those styles, approaches, and philosophies which are beginning to shape the latest era of human creation.

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The 21st century has brought with it a marked shift in our perception of art and communication: we are more multifaceted in our approaches, more diverse in our observations. This interdisciplinary field of study is known as Visual Culture. Scholars of visual culture find themselves in a near-constant state of analysis: politics, power, technology, science, ideology, religion, feminism, gender. The rest.

Not only that, but these themes are explored through every form of artistic expression, from classic oil canvasses to film, TV, comics and even fashion or sports. The separate worlds of fine art and pop culture are fusing together, and also the classic artistic methods and ultra-modern ones.

When you consider the breadth of motivations and inspirations for 21st-century art, we realise there?s no blanket term yet which can encapsulate it in entirety. Perhaps the beauty of our current art ?movement??

Relational Aesthetics and Participatory Art

Historically, art has been a passive event: you observe, analyze and enjoy a piece of work, but you don?t interact with it. The last decades heralded a new wave of so-called participatory art, which is certainly unique to modern times.

According to Khan Academy, participatory art is that in which the social interactions prompted by the work become its content. The idea is that those experiencing art are physically engaged in it, too.

The tendency to create art that depends on human interaction and social context is also known as relational aesthetics. Participatory art is by no means every artist?s cup of tea, but it?s probably the most unique form of modern expression which doesn?t require modern technology. It?s an exciting and novel artistic direction.

Computer Art

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Many artistic purists look upon graphic designers with an amount of disdain, but visual art no longer belongs solely to inks and paints. Realistically, computer-generated art is one of the defining styles of the 21st century so far. Whether it?s commercial design, TV, video games, or commissioned work for an art gallery, these artists are pushing the boundaries of their resources, just as millennia of traditional artists have before them.

Perhaps this insurgence of digital expression is a sign that art transcends technological change ? we learn, we adapt, we keep creating. If so, then the entire art community can take heart from the knowledge that even though tumultuous cultural change, art finds a way.

Neo-Dadaism and Absurdist Art

Today we are witnessing an overwhelming resurgence of Dadaism, an art movement of the European avant-garde in the early 20th century. Almost exactly one century since its inception, the so-called neo-dadaism is taking on new forms, and the proliferation of this ?defiantly anti-art? movement is more popular than ever.

But it?s not just in print anymore.

The evolution of visual culture and animated art has brought with it a tidal wave of satirical, absurdist art in the form of online comics and videos, driven by a core of millennials who are desperate to shatter the status quo and be heard.

Dada art was born from societies need to vent its frustration at the world, propounded by the horrific and unnecessary evils of the Great War. Millennial artists today are fighting that same fight; a terrific battle against the disillusionment at the heart of society, and it?s a beautiful thing.

Final Word

This is little more than a glimpse into the 21st-century art world ? there are probably more trends and fashions than could fill an entire series of articles! Our history has been defined by successive artistic movements, but perhaps, at least for a little while, we should enjoy a period of tinkering; of reveling in the millions of artists who don?t conform to any rules or movements.

They are creating for creation?s sake, and isn?t that the truest art form of all?


This article was created by Art Acacia Gallery & Advisory. Original text, as well as other posts on contemporary art, culture, and society, can be found here.

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