“Keeping followers interested in what you’re doing amid the noise and clamour of the web creates a pressure to create ‘content’ more than artwork”- Polly Nor

Ever since the introduction of Digitalization, the art industry has changed dramatically. The Internet has had a very profound impact on sectors of cultural industries in which the product can be digitized, more specifically, being easily posted online and displayed on a user’s computer, tablet or mobile phone. This happened quickly with visual artwork and literature; then, as the bandwidth and the transmission speed of technology increased, the same thing happened in music and cinema. As it happened, the dominant business models slowly started to vanish, leaving certain sectors in a precarious situation. The Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter (1942) refers to this process as “creative destruction”: destructive because of its hard impact on existing companies, but creative because of the economic vitality that it unleashed.

Even though Digitalization has impacted the art industry in many ways, like free exposure for small artists all over the world and the chance to be able to display their artworks in a platform accessible to everyone for free, one cannot ignore the fact that the digital era is slowly but surely disrupting and distorting the main idea behind art: an artist creates art pieces to please himself,  not everybody else.

Introducing Polly Nor, a British contemporary surrealist artist that gained most of her fame from sharing her works of art on her Instagram account, and also, one of the many creative minds that have suffered artistically because of the internet. Last September, during an interview with Dazed Magazine about her latest exhibition “Airing My Dirty Laundry in Public”, she expressed that “because everything came about really quickly through Instagram I feel like, instead of letting myself take some time off this year, I was pressuring myself that I had to be making new artwork so I could post it online.” 

This is one of the major drawbacks of the influence that technology has had in the creative world. Because people have gotten accustomed to the fact that they can get whatever they want from the Internet with just one click, they expect the exact same result from artists, and they forget that the reason why they share their artworks is to express and please themselves, and not everyone else. Furthermore, Nor expresses that she has felt the strains of performing on a stage that is so over-soaked and, in a way, fake and “eager to please”. Instead, she’s been concentrating on appreciating the creative process once more, “I’ve been working on pieces that I don’t feel the need to share straight away, so I have more time to develop and grow as an artist.”

In an already competitive world, the only thing that the tech world and more specifically, social media is doing, is placing artists in a competition against each other, where the winner is not the one that provides the most expressive and detailed pieces of work, but the one that is able to produce and post ‘content’ the fastest online.

In an interview with I-D Magazine, several young artists from NYC expressed their feelings about the current generation being so invested in social media, and the repercussions that this had on their creative process. Michael, one of the NYU senior students that was interviewed said “Instagram is the only platform I use in a professional manner…It’s kind of like a business card, everyone exchanges handles”. Moreover, Emily a film and television production NYU student also added, ‘”There is a major pressure to show off what you’ve done…As an artist looking for employment, you need to think twice as hard about your appearance. There’s a whole other facade to worry about when being an artist in our generation.”

Back in the day, before art met the internet, the main feeling of pressure and doubt that artists had, came from themselves. However, as technology continues to advance and new social media platforms are created, the artistic minds of the industry feel more compelled and overwhelmed by the critics of the people surrounding them, rather than by their own. They are no longer sure of what to create, because their creative process changes completely. It is not about what do I want as an artist? but more about what do my followers expect from me as an artist?

WORDS BY ELENA ARDILA