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Kamarck, Edward (ed.) / Arts in society: confrontation between art and technology

Kamarck, Edward L.
[Editorial comment: confrontation between art and technology] PDF (4.4 MB)

rupture is now being questioned. Can man in
fact continue to meet the challenge of
accelerating massive change? Does he
possess sufficient imagination, will, and
resourcefulness to design ever more
complex and flexible arrangements to
forestall the possible destruction of
society and himself?
Back in 1927, to us now a relatively
staticized age, the celebrated British
novelist, E. M. Forster, struck a singularly
prophetic note when he suggested that it is
science's proclivity for allying itself with
the needs and demands of power that gives
it such a potency for effecting change.
There is little doubt that many of the
fantastic technical and social
transformations in the western world
of the last two decades are directly or
indirectly a by-product of the Cold War;
and it is imagination-staggering to try to
conceive of the likely transformations
ensuing from the race for space, which now
increasingly absorbs the best energies and
national substances of the United States
and Russia. Such pessimists as Lewis
Mumford warn that though each new
invention may respond to a human need and
may awaken a fresh human potentiality, that
it immediately becomes part of an
"articulated totalitarian system  . . .
whose power must be increased, whose
prosperity is essential to all existence, and
whose operations, however irrational or
compulsive cannot be challenged, still less
modified." If to any significant degree true,
then technology in its impact must now
be regarded as anti-human, an
enemy of man.
In the confrontation between art and
technology one presumes that art is the
close ally of man and in fact man's most
articulate spokesman. In that light, can art
and science, deeply reft as they are in this
age of power, effect an understanding
and restore the kind of wholeness to
life we had in earlier ages?
itself is deeply challenged by a rapidly
shifting reality.
Though a broadening cultural stir exists in
this country, in numbers at least, it is
surely far more symptomatic of a deep
spiritual unease and an almost frantic
search for value and meaning than of
creative vitality. The evidence in fact points
to a widespread cultural thinness and a
failure of the artistic vision of our time.
The sharp decline of interest in fiction
and the corresponding rise of interest in
non-fiction within the past several decades
has perhaps more than passing significance.
Novelists far more than other creative
artists have traditionally been the purveyors
of a comprehensive sense of social reality.
Can one presume that few writers today
possess sufficient understanding, nerve,
and imaginative resources to grapple with
the terrible complexity of the emerging
new America?
The mad-cap aesthetic of the current
avant-garde though at times biting in its
commentary on the dehumanizing roles of
power and authority finally seems equally
dehumanizing in its stress on randomness,
disorder, and nihilism. It is an art-
and on occasion, an anti-art - that
points nowhere, and offers little substance,
courage, or vision.
It seems imperative that art confront
technology boldly and assertively. Tragically
out of effective touch because of language
and methodology, their mutual well-spring
of creativity must be reunited in the
service of man to illuminate his two most
pressing problems: the problem of power,
and the problem of building and preserving
a human reality amidst a world in flux.
Edward L. Kamarck
There can be, of course, no stand-off in
this confrontation, because the inexorable
offensive of technology rolls on and art finds
itself if anything more buffeted and
assailed by headlong change than any
other activity of life. The institutions of art
are by their very nature highly vulnerable
in times of disorder, and artistic creation

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