Desensitization to Art

One effect of modern media consumption devices is our desensitization to various forms of art, chiefly music and visual arts, for imagine for a moment how much access a typical person would have had to such things over a couple hundred years ago, before the birth of modern sound recording, probable music players and efficient printers. Without those technologies, access to art, whether in the form of music or painting, was very much limited. Hearing music would mean arranging a visit to the theatre, not merely pulling out your iPod and choosing a track, and seeing paintings would mean having to seek out the originals in a gallery, not simply Googling them up on your laptop or buying a print to hang on your wall.

The effect of such free access is that the impact of art is greatly diluted – it is no longer a rare and powerful emotional experience but an everyday occurrence. This is another reason for the recent shift in art from its focus on execution to originality. A perfect execution no longer gives us the same impact as something more original and creative – something we have not seen before. When everyone has access to beautiful recordings of Mozart on their iPods and perfect prints of da Vinci on their walls, the only way to compete is by creating something they do not have access to, and so our addiction to originality is fueled ever further.

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“For even falsehood, uttered by the tongue of man, seemed like truth and light before this hopelessly-deaf and unresponsive silence.”

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Further Reading

Proust wrote that the true voyage of discovery is not to visit strange lands, but to possess other eyes, to behold a hundred universes that each of them beholds. Thus, in the words of Ruskin, what good books give us is not mere knowledge, but sight.

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