Does arts really reflect the times?

I read a passage in “The Joiner and Cabinet Maker” that really made me think about how art and music are supposed to be a reflection of the times.

 Here’s the passage:

“In the second half of the 19th century, post-Industrial Revolution, a middle class emerged that had time and money for hobbies. Philosophers such as John Ruskin and William Morris touted the concept that craft was redeeming, that performing tasks themselves was noble, and that hand work – the same disappearing crafts that were poorly paid – was a noble occupation. And as a hobby, hand work was a noble pastime.

The 19th century was the transition period. The change in industry created new categories of jobs and opportunities. On one side, the factory system was horrific, with a high accident rate and terrible working conditions. Some factory jobs, especially the ones associated with a machine operator, could be pretty mindless….”

Taken from: “The Joiner and Cabinet Maker, His Work And its Principles” By Anon, Christopher Schwarz & Joel Moskowitz. Lost Art Press LLC, 2009, page 21

Out of this time period came the Arts & Crafts Social Movement along with the variety of Arts & Crafts styles. Why? The Social Movement wanted to free workers from soul crushing and dangerous factory work, and the Arts & Crafts style came out of the rejection of cheap factory made goods and the overly ornate Victorian style. Once removed from the factory, the worker/artisan could make handmade products which were ethically made and uplifted the spirit of the artisan. So what will come out of today’s times?

I personally don’t know what we call the “style of furniture” that is made today. “Modern” furniture was made years ago, and I personally can’t say that the American Studio movement is still going on today. So what is today’s “furniture style”? Has the world become so globalized that there is no “movement/style” today? Really, I want to know.

Right now, we have a generation of data crunchers, tied to their computers, the same way people were tied to their factory machines during the Industrial Revolution. What type of art and music is going to come out of this Digital Revolution? I know that without my outlet for artistic work via woodworking and sketching, I would be just another soulless chip in the big digital machine. So what will this movement be like? Will artists and craftsmen disconnect from the “Borg” (the Internet and cell phones) and try to find their own identities, and focus on local resources and avoid the crap construction of overseas furniture? Or perhaps decorative furniture and household items will be geared more toward our personal electronics and Digital lives?

Where are the outcries against the Digital monster that is making our lives so bland and grey? I seem to remember that computers were supposed to free us from work. I don’t know about you, but I am working harder than I ever have before. The passage from above stated: “a middle class emerged that had time and money for hobbies”. When I look around, all my middle class friends are buried in work and have no time or money for vacations and hobbies. Has today’s American middle-class become the factory workers of the Industrial Revolution? If so, where is the art, music, and crafts to reflect this? Perhaps American’s have become too sedated and docile for any real protest or change. I create art to break the shackles of the Digital age and free my soul. So I have to ask, does art and music always reflect the times? I guess I should go ahead and think of a snappy name for the next artistic movement.

I personally hope there will be a mass revolt against the collective global Borg, and there will be a return to locally handmade and homemade product markets. Perhaps the revolt against the soulless Digital Revolution will bring back another Arts & Crafts movement.

Your thoughts?

About yaakov

Husband, Abba, Furniture Maker, Turner, Bookseller, and all around working stiff.
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One Response to Does arts really reflect the times?

  1. I would submit that art, music, and craft do indeed reflect the times that produce them. Look around – we have modern art, music, and craft, and sadly there is little there that I find memorable. The true artisans are few and far between. To my mind, all you have to do is look at what the average American watches on TV to get a feel for the mindset of the consumer. Instant (if lesser) gratification is the name of the game. A couple of my coworkers laugh at my use of a double-edged razor, saying it “takes too long”. Too long for a simple pleasure that I get up 10 minutes earlier to be able to enjoy! Modern conveniences are prisons of the mind (yes, I’m using a computer to write this), and I’m afraid the revolution won’t come as long as the people are comfortable and sedated. That’s the job of the barbarians that come to the gates.

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