Everywhere - Right Now by Max Eternity

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Must incorporating the new be synonymous with a disconnect to our past?

Emerging Technology, Art and Anthropology

Scholarship has changed. Indeed, with the new technologies on demand the whole world
is changed . . . forever. The Internet has wrought creative interconnectivity
to its zenith, allowing one to experience everything—everywhere—right now.

Writing a recent commentary for Art Digital Magazine (AD MAG ) Scott Ligon ,
Coordinator for the Digital Foundation Curriculum at the Cleveland Institute of Art,
said, "Fully realizing the enabling potential of digital technology requires fluidity
of thinking. It requires the ability to consider the potential relationships between
elements rather than subdivide them into increasingly arbitrary categories."

Ligon is the author of Digital Art Revolution . He’s also an artist, scholar and filmmaker,
representing “Generation Now” and its splintered, yet holistic approach to learning—
disseminating information on a variety of platforms, simultaneously—synergistically.

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Scott Ligon speaking about Digital Art Revolution

Yet, for however radical this new scholarly vision that Ligon espouses is, he and many
others hold still a core value of traditional principles to heart. This Ligon articulates in the
final paragraph of his Digital Art: Medium or Metaphor AD MAG article, saying:
"Interestingly, in spite of all this change, there are no new visual elements. We
continue to work with line, shape, color, etc. Digital technology simply provides
new and unprecedented ways to combine and synthesize these elements into
something unique and personal."

Understanding this, what happens when an individual, institution or community gets left
out, failing to grasp the urgency of the dramatic, contemporary, anthropological shift
humanity is now undergoing as a direct consequence of the digital revolution? And must
incorporating the new be synonymous with a disconnect to our past; losing touch with
cultural heritage and/or centuries-old traditions—losing sight of the earned reverence and
respect of our elders?

Depending on who is being asked, a response to those questions might bring a variety of
conflicting responses. However, one thing that seems universally understood is that access
to opportunity equals empowerment, achievement and ultimately wealth. Which is to say
that whether one is seeking to read a book, plan an exhibition, research an archaeological
site or correspond socially with academic colleagues, those without continuous access to
broadband at work and at home, are considerably less likely to enjoy the benefits of their
labors, because they are not able to stay in the loop in real time.

Cutting-edge thinkers, a decade ago, coined a term for this. It’s called the digital divide.
And here’s what venerated elder Nelson Mandela had to say on the subject a few years ago:
"In the twenty-first century, the capacity to communicate will almost certainly be a key
human right. Eliminating the distinction between the information-rich and information-poor
is also critical to eliminating economic and other inequalities between North and South,
and to improve the life of all humanity."

This is a new paradigm shift for quality of life concerns, informing of a broad spectrum of
wealth potentialities, whether collective or individual. And though there are no pie-in-the-sky,
ready made solutions, there are those making headway through entrepreneurship,
rising up to the challenge of demonstrating new symbiotic relationships between the old
and the new, like Stephen Burns , an African-American artist and author who teaches at
the University of California in San Diego. When South Africa abolished its political apartheid,
Burns was one of an international group of artists invited to participate in the Johannesburg
Biennial. He created a digital print called “African Fury” for the show.

An abstract work of art with splatterings of color bursting through a blue-black
background, the piece seems both wild and highly-disciplined. In the work, Burns captures
the anguish of a people, their trials and tribulations—their eventual liberation. The
juxtaposition of shape and color, creates tension and angst, while the continual coolness
of the black surround stabilizes divergent elements with calmness, wisdom and relaxation.
At a different point in history, this print would likely have been rendered as a color carbon
print or lithograph. However, for Burns, logic stood to reason that a radical revolution in
contemporary, anthropological survey of that galvanizing moment in world history, the fall
of Apartheid, dictated a need for a visual art medium that was equally as radical, fresh and
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Stephen Burns   African Fury

Burns’ painting on a virtual pallet, then rendering a physical, digital print made
the perfect parallel, thus cementing in history a scholarly time capsule of art,
technology and anthropology.

Jean Chiang, a New York artist of Asian decent, who spends half her time in her Miami
studio, said to me in a recent late-night conversation:

"Putting a humanistic approach to it is important, because all that technology by
itself, it can be so impersonal I find. What I see is a lot of technology, with
anthropology, being used to make statements in shows. Like the Brooklyn
Museums’ Infinite Islands exhibition from 2007-08. It was the first major
Caribbean show in a major museum, curated by a South African."

Chiang, a trained anthropologist with an interest in archaeology, claims as much
Afro-Caribbean heritage as she does Chinese. And it’s her belief that “there's
no way to escape the link between art and anthropology…it has to come through.”

Yet in the age of now, technology determines how it comes through—who it
reaches and when—determining what gains attention and thus becomes truth, versus what
gets forgotten, dies and rots away.

Max Eternity