I remember the first time we saw the classic silent movie Metropolis by Fritz Lang. If you haven’t heard of Metropolis or if you haven’t seen any outtakes from that movie, please, by all means, go to YouTube and load a full version of the movie. It’s a silent movie but, believe me, the fact that it is silent makes it all the more powerful.
The reason why I raise the issue of Metropolis and its kind of schizophrenic depiction of the future is that a lot of the internal issues raised by that movie regarding artistry, authenticity, emotional honesty and electronic expression haven’t really been fully resolved. There is just something about the industrial process that throws too many academics and artists off. They think machines and industry have to be anti-people or at least somewhat anti-natural. This really is too bad because the future is a symbiosis-a partnership if you will between man and machine. Instead of machines replacing people, they exist to enhance people. Nothing wrong with that.
For the longest time, there is an ongoing philosophy in many circles in the United States and Western Europe that real art has to be manual. That’s right. A real artist has to roll up his or her sleeves and work up a sweat for the work product that artist comes up with to be considered art. That was the party line for a long time. That was the conventional wisdom.
Well, no other than Mr. Andy Warhol himself turned that model on its head. He had his assistant silkscreen Marilyn Monroe on wood blocks and others surfaces and, guess what, people are paying millions of dollars for stuff that Mr. Andy Warhol himself did not personally produce. In other words, Andy Warhol destroyed the legacy of Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Rembrandt and all the great masters.
The whole idea here is not so much plagiarism or mass-produced art, but the power of ideas. In other words, as long as the master or the artist, the named entity comes up with the idea, it doesn’t really matter who actually carries it out.
This is the heart of the interplay and the anxiety between music and technology that first saw its disturbing glimmers and manifestations in the movie Metropolis, and it continues to haunt electronic dance music today.
Is the fact that the DJ is not playing guitars or banging around drums or singing make electronic dance music less of an art form? This may seem very juvenile and superficial at some level, and it is. It really is quite sad that the musical criticism surrounding Electronica really hasn’t matured past that stage.
Let’s hope it breaks through sooner rather than later. At the very least, at least catch up with the state of art criticism and the intelligentsia surrounding and informing the representational art world. It’s a matter of time.